The Cuban Liberation Handbook
By Joshua Hatuey Marti
Table of Contents
Note from the Author:
Overview of the book:
Cuba Chapter 1
Cuba Chapter 2
Cuba Chapter 3
Cuba Chapter 4
Cuba Chapter 5
Note from the Author:
The main premise of the book is that totalitarian regimes are particularly vulnerable when an adversary offers monetary incentives to all who cooperate in their overthrow. A communist government, which includes Cuba, owns the vast majority of the nation’s assets. Millions of people now languish in the grip of these regimes while an important tool for their deliverance remains unused. Throughout the ages monetary incentives in war have proven exceptionally effective. In short, pay the liberators with the spoils of war.
This is applicable to nearly all totalitarian regimes throughout the world now and in the future. It is time we dusted off this most effective weapon from the past and used it.
This book is a work of fiction. It is in no way intended to incite any U.S. citizen to break U.S. law. Please refer to U.S Neutrality Law, see . The author gives his permission to any person who wishes to copy, distribute, change, modify or add to this work. The author is not responsible for said changes. A copy of the original manuscript can be found at
Joshua Hatuey Marti
Overview of the book:
This story is different from any book you have yet read.
It is a prophetic parable: a blueprint for coming events in fictional form.
It is a reminder of something you already know, that you are the beneficiary of the blessings of liberty bought and paid for with the blood and treasure of those who have gone before.
It is your call to purchase those blessings for future generations.
Your first step on that path is to read this story.
[The Cuban Liberation Handbook
*Ciego de Avila. *
[*October 1, 2018 “L” Day or Liberation Day 7:21 AM *]
Jose sat and read the flyer that seemed to magically appear, plastered all around the town overnight. The ‘Committee for the Defense of the Revolution’ neighborhood watch groups, the CDR’s, were busily tearing them down. These local watchdogs for the Communist Party served as brutal vigilantes for their far more brutal masters in Havana. They were the embodiment of Big Brother on a neighborhood level. Most people who wanted to see the flyer had only to pick one out of the trash. What the CDR’s lacked for in intelligence however, they made up for in malevolence. Jose continued reading:
A blueprint for victory in Cuba
Plan of compensation for freedom fighters in Cuba.
Outline: All who participate in active resistance in the war to free Cuba will be compensated with a share of all land, buildings, holdings, equipment, licensing and assets of any kind held by the Cuban Government.
Authority of use:[* *]Any entity who will adopt this plan in its entirety is authorized to implement it.
Assets held by Communist Government: After the war, these assets will be the property of the Free Cuban Armed Forces and its shareholders. All war debt and expenses incurred by the Free Cuban Armed Forces (FCAF) will be honored and paid by new Cuban Government.
Immunity: Immunity from prosecution for acts committed prior to the rebellion will be granted to all persons who join in active resistance at the first practicable moment.
Varying shares to the participants:
Each fighter will be awarded points based upon his join date, wounds received, days spent in actual combat and special awards for heroic conduct or effectiveness, sacrifices made etc… These shares will be adjudicated by an impartial tribunal with no conflicting interests. The status of the person before the war will have no bearing on the shares he is to be awarded. All people should be confident that if they join and are effective, they will be compensated without consideration of their past.
Bonus shares: These shares will be given out for especially effective service. They will be based upon the percent that the service rendered contributed to the success of the entire revolution. For example, let’s say the commander of the FAR Central army were to support the Free Cubans and that he and his forces were to fight against the Communists. He would be eligible for special bonus shares. If his acts were judged by the tribunal to be 10% responsible for the ultimate victory then he would receive 10% of all the spoils of the war.
Local Control: Local forces who are first to take the initiative and seize control of towns, areas, provinces or strategic points etc… will be compensated by receiving the entirety of the assets of that controlled area.
Join dates: Date and time will be noted for those joining active resistance. Recruits may join either by signing up with authorized personnel or taking up arms against the local communist forces in an action that can be proven to an investigative panel convened at a later time. For example: if a Cuban joins two weeks after the start of hostilities he would be entitled to shares won after his join date. He would not be entitled to shares won previous to his start date. If it is determined that the war for Cuba was effectively forty percent won by his start date he would only be entitled to shares won after that date.
Example: If a local communist commander joins at the first practicable moment, leads his men to fight for the resistance, produces an especially effective service (such as controlling a sector, road or rail juncture or bridges that the resistance forces may need) he would be entitled to a special share of the spoils war. If his services prove to be judged 1.7% responsible for victory in the war, then his compensation package would consist of: 1. Amnesty for all crimes committed prior to his joining the resistance except murder unless pardoned by the new President. 2. His future protection and security provided for by the government if desired. 3. His normal shares as given out to all members of the FCAF. 4. 1.7% of all spoils of the war. 5. His share of the entire area controlled by his efforts. This is applicable to Civilian and Soldier alike all the way up to the highest politburo member.
Castro: There will be a $10 million reward to the person or persons responsible for the killing or capture of Raul Castro or the current head of the Communist Cuban government. They will also be entitled to all of the rewards mentioned above. They will enjoy the protection of the Free Cuban Armed Forces. Anyone who is found guilty of ordering or assisting in this Patriot’s execution or mistreatment will be executed along with the entire chain of command. This act will be considered unpardonable and the sentence not revocable in any way.
In the case of his capture this Patriot has the necessary authority to pass the sentence of death upon any enemy persons to be carried out by FCAF forces as immediately as is feasible.i
Treatment of prisoners: The resistance will adhere to strict conformity to the Geneva Conventions. These people are our brothers. No prisoners will be mistreated in any way. If adequate treatment cannot be given to prisoners they will be paroled and released if they agree to not participate in the war for the duration. We look forward to recruiting on a voluntary basis as many as we can to our ranks.
Conduct: All Freedom Fighters will be held accountable for their acts toward combatants and non-combatants alike. No abuse of power will be tolerated. All Cuban civilians will be compensated for any supplies or services provided to the resistance.
Communist Soldiers: Soldiers who give themselves up without any injuries to our forces will be paid their salaries owed to them by their government. They will have the option to join the resistance or simply go home if it is located within liberated territory. They will be fed or assisted by our forces in their travels. Qualifying Communist Soldiers who lay down their arms will be given free immigration to the United States along with their immediate family.
[*Change of Constitution: *] New government will adopt and abide by the current constitution of the United States as it now stands with the exception of amendment 17- Senators shall be elected per original constitution. All articles in the constitution may be changed in the future as afforded by the constitution except alterations affecting the compensation received by the Free Cuban Armed Forces.
Payment of debt: The new government shall honor payment of all debts incurred by the Free Cuban Armed Forces. The new Cuban Government shall repay all expenses borne by the United States or other allied countries.
Exception for Murder: All individuals convicted of first degree murder will be executed barring a Presidential pardon.
Fliers: Any and all persons distributing this flier will be compensated. Compensation for this service will vary depending upon risk taken by the distributor. All persons who suffer penalties because of this or any other activity in sympathy with the revolution will be compensated.
For a complete copy of FCAF compensation guidelines visit CubanLiberationHandbook.com
Message from President Joshua Marti
Commander in Chief – Free Cuban Armed Forces
By the Grace of Almighty God Free Cuban Forces stand again on Cuban Soil. The hour of our redemption is here. Our battle lines are rolling forward. Now is the time for you to rise and strike. In memory of your God and Religion, Strike! For your Freedom and Peace to be won, Strike! For our wives and children, for future generations and in the name of your sacred dead, Strike! Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The divine guidance of God leads the way. We shall follow in his name to righteous victory over the forces of evil.ii
Jose was reading this latest flyer and eating his breakfast of oranges just like every stinking day that he could remember. Over forty years ago his Grandfather had the foresight to plant fruit bearing trees within weeks of finding out that Fidel’s well-disguised ideology was Communism. Though Grandpa said it with typical Cuban wit and humor his meaning was clear. When Communists take over people starve.
Ten years ago when the old man was still alive he would joke “Before the Revolution the signs at the zoo read – PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS. In the eighties they changed the signs to read – PLEASE DO NOT EAT THE ANIMAL FOOD. In the nineties they changed it again to read – PLEASE DO NOT EAT THE ANIMALS.”
Now, in this new century that old joke was no longer funny to Jose. Now it only filled him with determination for the fight ahead.
Thank goodness citrus grew like pesky weeds around his house or they would all starve. His friend appeared in his broken down doorway and barked at him in a hoarse whisper, “Jose, bring your oranges and come with me…get the other flyers and come! NOW!!” Miguel grabbed Jose by his arm and dragged him out and down the crumbling concrete steps. Jose’s sister grabbed the secret stash of contraband literature and gave it to her brother as the two walked toward the street. On top of the stack was a flyer that was so wrinkled that it looked as though it was balled up and flattened out. The top of the flyer was ripped and the header was missing but the flyer went on to say
On July 1st ocean rescues of Cuban exiles will commence. The exiles will be transferred to the U.S Naval Base at Guantanamo to the free Cuban sector. Only Cuban men who are qualified and wish to serve in the Free Cuban Armed Forces will be allowed to remain on Free Cuban Soil. All others will be sent back to Communist Cuba. Requirements for service: Males between the ages of 18 to 45 years old. Good physical condition, literate and willing to serve in Free Cuban Forces for 4 years. All others will not be picked up or will be repatriated to Communist Cuba.
Rescue Ships Schedule and Dates.
Generally, rescue ships will be anchored 22 km directly away from listed Cuban sites in international waters. All rescue ships will have a red flashing light that will be visible from shore. The boat will flash the red signal light if it is available to rescue additional Cuban men. It will flash a yellow light if it is full or not available. Some exceptions to that will be the outlying islands where they will be visible only from the outlying island considered Cuban soil. If you do not see the ship’s red signal light you are advised not to attempt an escape. You should never venture further from land than you can safely return to it, should the need arise. Ships may not remain on station during bad weather.
table<. <. |<^. Havana Province |<^. Year Round |<^. Year Round | <. |<^. Mariel |<^. Every Monday |<^. Every Monday | <. |<^. Playa Baracoa |<^. Every Tuesday |<^. Every Tuesday | <. |<^. Marina Hemingway |<^. Every Wednesday |<^. Every Wednesday | <. |<^. La Habana Harbor Entrance |<^. Continuous |<^. Continuous | <. |<^. Bahia de la Habana |<^. Every Thursday |<^. Every Thursday | <. |<^. Santa Maria del Mar |<^. Every Friday |<^. Every Friday | <. |<^. Guanabo |<^. Every Saturday |<^. Every Saturday | <. |<^. Santacruz del Norte |<^. Every Sunday |<^. Every Sunday | <. |<^\3. Guantanamo Province |
Guantanamo Naval Base – Check in at harbor entrance
Santiago de Cuba 22 km from harbor entrance Year round odd days only starting
Soon they were at Miguel’s broken down hovel near the fetid stream called San Diego Creek. He carefully pulled the earphone jack from the small radio, which was tuned to voice of freedom radio station. This was the first time they had not taken turns listening through the earpiece at the lowest volume possible to preserve the batteries. It had finally started. The long awaited conflict between the refugees at Guantanamo and the Communist Cuban government had begun. The relatively small rebel force residing at the Free Cuban sector of the American Naval Base at Guantanamo had broken out of the base within the first few hours of the conflict. ‘A small invasion force probably’, thought Jose ‘but enough of one to risk it all on’. The last chance at liberation came and went long before they were born. This chance would not pass them by. They would not live out their lives as slaves of the state and die as old drunken beggars after all. They knew exactly what to do. They were clear on their course of action ever since the “Rescue Ships Schedule” flier fell into their hands two years ago. They decided not to flee. They would stay and fight when the time came and they prepared as best they could.
The elderly voice of Joshua Marti came on and they turned up the volume.
[*“This Free Cuban republic and our good brothers to the north of us, the United States, are linked together in this great cause of freedom. Even though ninety nine percent of our beloved Isle is now held in the grip of a dark and evil foe we will not falter or fail in our duty to fight it, whatever the cost. The strength and power of our loving Father flows through us to conquer these forces of Satan and bring the blessings of liberty to all Cubans, born and unborn. In the end we will be judged and rewarded by that same Father for the efforts we have made to do his will on earth.” *]
“The time when the blood of Cuban patriots can be spilled with impunity is over. No Free Cuban will go down without a fight.
[*We will fight these forces of evil in the hills and city streets. We will fight them in the air and on the sea. We will give them battle on our endless highways and cane fields. In countless small, terrible fights and great offensives. We will never, never stop. Wherever there beats a heart that yearns for freedom, there the fight will be. The prayers of millions strengthen us in our struggle. In God’s good time our ancient Island will breathe free again. Until then, it is up to us to do all we can do to fulfill our God given duty.” *]
A group of eight young men now trickled into Miguel’s room to discuss a plan that had been incubating for years. By 10AM on that hot October morning eight young men grew to twelve as they again gathered one block south of the police station. Each one carried a knife. As a ruse Jose escorted Miguel across the street while Miguel feigned extreme pain from a broken arm. The others waited in the shadows across the street. With fatalistic dread Jose paused and looked up the steps at the solid gloomy door of the police station.
Jose helped the moaning Miguel up the steps. The door was locked which was unusual for this time of day. Jose hoped it was not a precaution because of the invasion. They had to catch the police unawares if their plan would succeed. The sergeant on duty heard them approach and opened the door two seconds after Jose tried the knob. The door opened swiftly and there stood the sergeant on watch. Jose instantly recognized the sergeant as a man named Garza, a short stocky, powerfully built man. He wore glasses with thick black frames and a white patch made of gauze over his left eye. It was hard to tell if he wore the patch directly on his eye or if it was attached to the lens itself. Everyone knew Garza loved the feel of a heavy piece of black hose in his hand. While dealing with prisoners he was never without it. He quickly came to love the power that torture imparted to him over the tortured. A mean, sadistic communist through and through. He was a man whom everyone in this section of the city feared and despised for years. He was an institution of evil in and of himself. . Jose instantly knew there would be no reasoning with this animal. No surrender and no mercy for him if he was unsuccessful and he could give none to this monster if he was successful. In that small moment as the door opened and Garza looked at Miguel with contempt and anger. Jose sensed Garza was alone in the front office. The policeman started to utter his last insult “Get the …”. Jose grabbed the knife from his waistband and thrust it home through Garza’s right carotid artery and on through the back of his neck. The force of the attack sent both men back through the doorway glancing off of the wall next to the door and onto a row of heavy wooden chairs. The chairs scattered and overturned in a loud screeching crash. Jose brought the knife up and the whole side of the torturer’s neck was laid open. Out of the corner of his eye Jose thought he saw Garza’s hand reach down for his holster as he plunged the knife home again, half stabbing half sawing at his opponents throat. Another hand beat Garza to his Makarov 9 millimeter. Miguel tore at the smooth brown leather flap covering the handguniii and pulled at the strap that lifted the gun out of the holster. Miguel chambered a round finding one had already been loaded in the barrel. With a click the wasted round was sent tumbling through space and onto the floor. He checked the safety button then heard the unmistakable sound of a chair being moved across the floor in another room. A voice called out “what the?… Garza?.” But Garza now lay nearly motionless on his back looking wide eyed at the ceiling as though he saw the demons of Hell coming to claim his evil soul. The only sign of life was the gruesome sound of his lungs laboring through a butchered neck.
Miguel moved silently and swiftly through a doorway and into a hall leading to the voice. Jose followed close behind with his bloody hand on Miguel’s back taking glances behind him for anyone coming down the hall. Already their comrades were pouring through the door into the front office. Ten feet from Miguel a door to an office opened and a uniformed man came half way out. The man’s look of irritation turned to curious concern then immediately to a panicked, fearful surprise. His automatic response to the fast approaching barrel pointing at his eye was to raise his hands as though to feel a pair of breasts. Miguel put his finger to his lips as a sign for the man to keep quiet as he glided silently past him. Jose put the blade of his knife to the man’s throat and reached for the policeman’s gun. There was a slight movement of the policeman’s hand as he realized the gunman had moved down the hall. Jose pressed the sharp blade firmly against the man’s throat till the policeman knew he meant business. The uniformed man made a slight noise as his face grimaced at the pressure of the blade. Jose relieved the policeman of his sidearm as his team filled the hall.
Miguel continued down the hall with the quiet bustling and hoarse whispering of his friends behind him. The offices on this side were empty. Miguel went through the lunchroom to check the back door leading to the back parking lot. Through the window in the door he saw two policemen walking towards the building from their car. The two policemen were 15 meters from the steps leading to the back door when the one trailing slightly behind the other squinted his eyes at the building. Miguel saw his mouth mutter something as he started to point his finger at the center of the building where most of the commotion was still going on. Miguel did not break stride as his momentum carried him out the back door. Standing on the top landing of the steps he leveled the pistol at the first man not more than three meters away. His voice was so loud as he yelled “STOP…DON’T MOVE” that it surprised everyone who heard him including himself. Both men scrambled to draw their pistols as Miguel shot the first man twice in the chest and dropped him then pointed his gun at the second. The second policeman had spun on his heels to run for cover at the same time firing a shot at Miguel, as a result doing neither very well. Miguel instinctively bobbed his head as a bullet whizzed past and smashed into the wall behind him. Miguel fired four shots into the fleeing man, emptying his magazine.
*Guantanamo Naval Base *
[* Free Cuban Armed Forces- Free Cuban Sector Airbase *]
Cuba September 30th, 2018. 9:00 PM – (Please carefully note dates)
[* “L” Day-or Liberation Day- minus one (one day before Liberation Day) *]
The dull grey aircraft seemed to sag under the weight of fuel, bombs and missiles. In the heavily armored hangar Cuco Cervantes fired up the F-15’s engines. They came to life with a screaming whine and a deafening roar. He got the avionics spun up and settled. The navigation system aligned itself as the rest of the system warmed up. In the back seat his Weapons Systems Officer (the WSO or the ‘wizzo’) was Ismael Portuondo, Izzy for short and that, of course made him “Izzy the wizzo.” Izzy took one last look around as he snapped in the bayonet clip on his oxygen mask. “I hope they clean those Commie guns outa here quick,” He said referring to Castro’s artillery now menacing the Free Cuban Sector at Guantanamo. “I told Maria I’d take her golfing on Friday. I bet her I would shoot a hole in one…eighteen times in a row,” Izzy said referring to the craters created by the upcoming artillery battle.
“Yeah?” Cuco muttered as he concentrated on the gauges. “What’d she say?”
“Oh man,” Izzy laughed, “she just went white.”
“Really,” Cuco stopped and thought for a moment. That did not seem like the Maria he knew. ‘Maria full of fight’ was his nickname for this average looking but rare female among the Free Cuban Armed Forces at Guantanamo.
“Yeah, well,” Izzy went on “then I could see her jaw get all tight, like when she’s mad you know, and she said, ‘Good, it’s about time.’ Then she said, ‘Just make sure you’re here for your bet.’”
Cuco continued to check his gauges and said “It’s good to know a State secret is safe with you, Izzy.”
Cuco taxied to takeoff position, dropped the flaps and slid the throttles all the way forward. The twin F100 engines roared. Cuco released the brakes. The afterburners blasted flame like a pair of rockets lighting up the night, each engine producing 24,000 pounds of thrust. The sixty-eight-thousand pound F-15 Eagle thundered down the runway to blast itself off the earth. Freedom One was now in the air. His wingman, Freedom Two, waited in his fortified aircraft shelter for a full two minutes before he too taxied to the end of the short runway, plugged in full afterburner on the older Vietnam era Phantom F-4 jet fighter and shot down the runway.
After flying for some time Cuco peered out over the dark Caribbean Sea and said “Give me the leg brief, Izzy.”
“Next heading two-four-zero, leg time twelve minutes fifteen seconds,” Izzy recited. “Descend to Level-off altitude two thousand feet… set and verified. The SA-2iv early warning radar site is our first threat. I’ve got only air traffic control search radars up now.”
Both pilot and WSO had sixteen-color multifunction displays (MDFs).v
Their course was depicted on their display as a roadway, with the road as the computer-recommended altitude. Symbols showed known and detected threats and obstacles. Two large upside-down green cones represented the search radars on the isle of Cuba, with the “roadway” threading precisely between and underneath the edges of the cones.
Colored symbols all along the Cuban coastline represented the location of known antiaircraft threat sites, but so far none were active.
“Our first threat is an SA-2 site, two o’clock, forty miles. We should be underneath it in five minutes. We’ve got two SA-9 Gaskinvi sites at eleven o’clock—search radars only. We should be outside detection range. No fighters detected yet. LADAR (laser radar) coming on,” Izzy said referring to the F-15’s highest tech asset, the Laser Radar. “Our course is clear so far…. OK, we probably have Commie fighters at three o’clock, seventy miles—they’re moving pretty fast, but they don’t have radars on so we can’t identify yet.” Izzy kept up a constant litany of reports and observations. Although Cuco had all that information right in front of him as well, it was reassuring to hear Izzy reciting it all—two pairs of eyes scanning the instruments was always better than one, especially when things started happening fast.
The computer generated “road” started to rise up to meet the aircraft depiction on their navigation displays, so both crew members monitored the level-off carefully. They performed a fast terrain-following system check, verified that everything was working normally. They were over water, forty miles off the Cuban coast. The Cuban coastal air defense sites were all around them, but right now they were quiet—no radar emissions at all.
“Want to step it down, Cuco?” Izzy asked.
Cuco studied the threat display. They knew the position of the nearest SA-2 site—it just wasn’t transmitting yet. At two thousand feet, they were right at the edge of lethal coverage at this range. They could descend well below the missile’s engagement envelope, but then risk being heard from the ground. Only government and military aircraft would be flying over Cuba, and a big plane like an F-15 flying low to the ground would certainly attract attention. “Let’s leave it here for now,” Cuco replied. “We’ll give it a few minutes and—”
Suddenly a female voice from the threat warning receiver spoke: “Caution, SA-2 SAM at two o’clock, thirty miles… warning, SA-2 SAM height-finder at two o’clock, thirty miles…”
“Trackbreakers active,” Izzy verified. “Let’s take it down to one hundred.”
“SA-2 SAM in acquisition mode,” the computer reported. Now every anti-aircraft battery within one hundred miles was popping on line -- searching.
Free Cuban Sector, Guantanamo Naval Base
Fighter Squadron Briefing
September 4th 2018 “L” Day minus 26 days (26 days Liberation Day) (Please carefully note dates)
Author’s Note: Please double click on footnotes to find pictures and references. Double click again to return to document.
Captain Fernando Pruna spoke before a large map of Cuba to the sixteen men sitting at small high school desks “Before the build up over the last year, the Communists had 130 plus combat aircraft on the books. Twenty-five were known to be operational. Eighteen of those were operational fighter aircraft. Those are made up of three Mig-29’s, ten MiG-23’s, and five MiG-21’s. They had an additional forty-five armed helicopters. They have added seven additional fighters over the last year. Now we have confirmation that the Chinese shipment we talked about two weeks ago of eight fighters are now in operation. The shiny new paint on those J7’s we’ve been seeing is because the planes are shiny and new. That brings the total we know about to thirty-three fighter aircraft. The unknown, is still the MiG-29’s that may have been shipped in from Venezuela. The rundown is in your book.” The mood in the room grew quiet and gloomy.
“They have over one hundred non-operational combat aircraft, with that many extra parts and airframes you can put together a number of additional planes,” said Captain Fernando Pruna as he overlooked the sixteen airmen that made up the entire Free Cuban Air Force. “We just don’t know how many they have. The plan is that FCN (Free Cuban Navy) will hit them with ship mounted MLRS rockets at 2115 hrs. Hopefully the majority of the aircraft will be on the ground. We will hit and crater the runways and taxi areas and bottle them up in their hardened shelters until we can come back and knock them out one at a time.”
Cuco raised his hand “What if they aren’t on the ground where they’re supposed to be and we’re stuck up there with a bunch of bombs on our racks? Should we try to bomb them mid-air?” An amused murmur went through the men as Cuco looked behind him. “Didn’t you guys get that lesson at Red Flag?” He referred to the discussion of how a U.S. warplane had dropped a laser-guided bomb onto a flying Iraqi helicopter during Gulf War I.
“Your flight package will have eight missiles between you. You’ll have four AAMRAMSvii and your Wild Weaselviii will have four Sparrowsix as well”.
“Look Sir,” Cuco responded with upraised hand, not waiting to be called on, “with all due respect, those planes are not going to be on the ground. They can see us take off from Gitmo. They’re going to scramble just like they always do when we take off, besides they always seem to know what we’re up to,” Cuco said.
Captain Pruna took off his glasses and used them to punctuate his sentence. “They have been scrambling a limited number of fighters lately. For the last month or so they rarely put up more than two of their fighters to every one of ours in the air. This will be a cake walk if the odds are only two to one. And yes, it’s a crap shoot, I know, but they may have enough fighters to overwhelm us or eventually catch us on the ground. If we can hit them first and cripple them, then the war is as good as won.”
“Hey it’s a good as won already, Cap. We’ve got “Izzy the Wizzo,” the highest score at Red Flag.”
“Yeah,” piped up a voice from the back of the room, “and the worst gambler and even he wouldn’t make that bet, Cap”. Raucous laughter rolled through the room as the airmen remembered their nights carousing in Las Vegas, just a short drive from Nellis Air Force Base and the daunting pressures of the Red Flag war games. All the crews were U.S. airmen who joined the Free Cubans. Since that time they had been intensively training at various U.S bases and were the center of attention at this year’s Red Flag exercise. These sixteen Free Cubans had more quality flight time training than the entire Communist Air Force combined.
[* Strike Package One- F-15 Aircraft Named Freedom One *]
[*Cuba September 30th, 2018. 9:00 PM *]
“L” Day minus one (Please carefully note dates)
“AWACSx to Freedom one” came the call over Cuco’s headphones. “Be advised twenty eight bandits have scrambled throughout Cuba. Six bandits in your vicinity. Over.”
Cuco could not respond and had to maintain radio silence. “No kidding,” he said sarcastically. Izzy chimed in with his Ricky Ricardo imitation “Luuuseee…..Hi toll hue soh.”
The American intel had been a wonderful thing to have. President Trump personally asked the Air Force to provide all the intel they could to the Free Cubans and they were eager to do so. The older grey headed men in the upper echelons remembered the impotent rage they all felt when courageous Cuban patriots were left to be massacred at the Bay of Pigs by a timid and unsure new American President. One of the USAF generals, as a young pilot, had actually flown over the Communists with their armor and vehicles choking the only two roads into the Zapatas swamps. It would have been so easy to waste them all. Back then victory was just a toggle switch away. The Twelfth Air Force, the Air Combat Command headquarters, owned the long-range reconnaissance aircraft needed and enthusiastically put together a reconnaissance schedule that blanketed the entire Island of Cuba which included the unmanned RQ-4A Global Hawkxi, The U-2xii spy plane, the RC-135 RIVET JOINTxiii electronic reconnaissance plane, and the E-8 Joint STARSxiv(surveillance and Targeting Radar System) ground-reconnaissance aircraft. With a combination of these aircraft flying in international airspace just offshore Cuba, augmented with satellite reconnaissance, gave them a 24/7 real-time picture of Cuba. In fact it would be the most complete real-time picture of a battlefield in the history of warfare.
“That SA-2 site knows we’re out here, but he can’t find us… yet.” Cuco said.
“Freedom One, be advised, multiple inbound MLRSxv, southbound, twenty miles, over,” said their guardian AWACS. The powerful radar plane and its accompanying U-2 spy plane had orders to assist the Free Cuban Air Force with the defense of their aircraft and base only. Originally it was understood that the high tech planes would not assist the Free Cubans in attacking Communist ground forces. But at the outset that understanding came with a wink and a nod by the men in uniform who would carry out the policy.
As Cuco looked at the horizon far ahead he saw anti-aircraft guns firing wildly, creating fiery serpentine figures in the sky and the blazing trails of communist missiles reaching up into the darkness. He could not see the incoming MLRS missiles that they were shooting at.
“Here they come, right on time, God bless the Navy!” yelled Cuco. “Izzy, where are those fighters you saw earlier?”
Izzy activated the laser radar for a few seconds. “They’re on their way now,” he said. “Two bandits headed our way at six hundred thirty knots, twenty-nine thousand feet. Less than six minutes out. No identification yet.”
20 km off the southern coast of Cuba
[*Free Cuban Navy – The FCN (Free Cuban Navy) Ibrahim Torres *]
September 30th 2018 9:15 PM. L Day minus one
As Cuco’s F-15E flew towards its target, a rusty old container ship newly renamed the Ibrahim Torres erupted in flame giving a fiery birth to sixty-three missilesxvi that were now arcing across the sky to their assigned targets. These included military air and naval bases with their related air defenses, command and control targets and early warning radar installations. The 63 MLRS rockets were mounted amidships in a static forty-five degree angle pointing off to starboard. Each one was steered by GPS coordinates. The Free Cubans felt relieved to get most of them off this rusty hulk and into the air. It was a great satisfaction to the crew that tonight the “FCN Torres” struck a blow for its namesake. Ibrahim Torresxvii was a Cuban patriot who was a victim of Castro’s Biological experimentation and died in Castro’s Gulag. What WWII sailor could have imagined that this old tub could have a much further range than the biggest battleship gun and pinpoint accuracy? Some of these missiles could fly three hundred kilometers or one hundred and eighty-six miles. If there was one country that was vulnerable to sea power it was Cuba. The island was only about fifty to seventy miles wide and could be attacked from either coast. There was no strategic target that was out of range of the sea mounted MLRS rockets.
The SA-2 battery had acquired Cuco’s F-15. The Communist radar operator quickly set up his shot when his attention was drawn to eight more fast approaching objects. With beads of fear running down his neck, his instinct to survive wrested the control of his finger away from his brain and the finger flipped off the radar. The approaching MLRS rockets were not homing in on radar emissions and did not care if he shut it down or not. The MLRS rocket skins separated releasing thousands of the small bomblets in a wide pattern drowning the entire SA-2 regimentxviii in a fiery dust cloud of exploding grenades followed by a satisfying series of secondary explosions. Three battalions of SA-2’s, sixteen missiles still in their launchers, their regimental headquarters and their early warning radar systems along with another six missiles stored on their tractor trailers near the headquarters were destroyed in the time it took to take a deep breath.
Throughout Cuco’s immediate area nearly all the AA sites were going off the air in the same way creating a clear corridor to his target.
The Ibriham was one of twelve ships that at this same moment were hitting selected Communist SAM sites and mobile launchers, all active military air bases and naval facilities. The Satellite information had poured in from U.S. military sources and had gone directly into the last minute targeting of all these sites. The seven main air bases operating the MiG aircraft were hit the hardest. Air basesxix along the beautiful island were now burning, from San Antonio de los Banyos and Jose Marti Air Base near Havana to Santiago de Cuba, a short hop over the mountains from Guantanamo. Cienfuegos, San Julian, Guines, Holquin and Santi Spiritus were all hit with a vicious barrage of cluster munitions leaving small craters the size of basketballs throughout the runways and taxiways. The shaped charge warheads exploded driving its armor piercing projectile deep into anything it landed on. They pierced the concrete and steel reinforced shelters that were supposed to house the precious MiG’s. They exploded fuel tanks and lines laying several feet underground. Several bunkers of munitions exploded in a blast that could be heard for miles and spread missiles, bombs, and shells throughout the base area. The anti-personnel shrapnel in the mini grenades put a hole in nearly everything. The brilliant white incendiary zirconium they carried set almost everything afire. They were followed by MLRS missiles carrying the smart mines. These air-disbursed mines, once deployed, would extend four small wires and could feel ground vibrations of approaching vehicles and people. They would wait until the vehicle was within range before they exploded, driving a molten copper projectile into the tank or anything else that approached it, including an aircraft taking off or some poor dolt with a bulldozer trying to fill in the cratered runway.
[*Free Cuban Armed Forces – North invasion force, Guantanamo Cuba *]
October 1, 2018. “L” Day or Liberation Day.
There was nothing creative or surprising about General Zip Petra’s battle plan to capture the airport, road and rail junctions at the bustling city of Guantanamo twenty-one km to his north. The Free Cuban Armed Forces struck north through the town of Caimanera which lay just outside the gates of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. They hammered their way up the Calle Pinto road. The pace was measured, and the expenditure of munitions was truly awe inspiring. The Free Cubans received intelligence that Castro was about to attack the Free Cuban Sector of Guantanamo on October 15th and it had been no secret that Cuba had a full national mobilization underway. The Satellite Intel from the U.S. was so remarkably detailed that General Petra could not believe that the Communists could hide any artillery that he could not see and hit. And hit it he would. The satellite reports consisted of not only visual images of the clearest possible detail but also ground penetrating radar surveys providing subsurface images of underground bunkers. Infrared images mapped warm bodies and their movements and CO2 detectors could tell how many soldiers lay hidden in the underground bunker systems now ringing the base. As a diversion, one of the American operators sent a report locating a small animal burrow with an entrance no bigger than a centavo hidden by brush. The Infrared report determined it was not warm blooded but using CO2 detection concluded it was inhabited by a decent sized snake. This amused Genera Petra but only because he didn’t pay for it. If that report would have been billed to the FCAF the penny pinching miser would have kicked someone’s tail into next week.
For over a year the Free Cuban Armed Forces had protested the close proximity of Communist artillery. The fact was that the Communists could destroy the Free Cuban sector of Guantanamo with artillery within the first few minutes of an attack. It became obvious that a diplomatic solution was impossible and there was no way Zip Petra was going to let Castro have the first punch in this fight. The offer of automatic immigration to the U.S. for any surrendering Communist soldier had been a boon to their intelligence gathering. Six hundred eighty five communist soldiers defected to the Free Cubans in the last six months. Sixty five of those were especially noteworthy defections that had yielded a tremendous amount of information that helped uncover Castro’s sneak attack planned for October 15th.
At 9:15 PM September 30th, using detailed U.S. satellite targeting info, the Free Cubans hit 364 Communist artillery and mortar sites with the first fifteen minute salvo. Then the real artillery duel started.
Free Cuban Armed Forces –
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day. *]
The relatively small area of Guantanamo base was a perfect application for the various newly developed high tech air defense weapons making their way into service around the world. All were either developed in, or in the hands of, friendly western countries. They, in turn, could never deliver these high tech marvels into the bloody, bestial pawsxx of the last standing ally of the nightmarish eastern bloc.
The planned installation of the expensive systems seemed like the best deal the Free Cubans never made. Without a penny of their own money the United States planned to install new air, missile and artillery defense weapons that would protect their naval base at Guantanamo and of course, the Free Cuban Sector that lay within the confines of the base proper. Unfortunately, being out of the Free Cuban war making decision loop and with the conflict escalating by the hour, the U.S was behind the curve installing the wonder weapons and planned weapons could not defend anything.
The only anti-artillery weapon found to be operational at the opening of hostilities was being operated and tested by the Free Cubans. It was the new version of the Phalanx CIWSxxi (, pronounced see-wiz) the anti-artillery gatling gun. It borrowed some of the same technology from the Navy’s Phalanx close-in-weapons systemxxii, which defends ships from missile attacks. Phalanx was a fast-reaction, rapid-fire 20-millimeter gun system designed to engage anti-ship cruise missiles and fixed wing aircraft at short range. The PHALANX had substantial success in knocking down incoming artillery. It was first used in protecting the Green Zone in Iraq. Its fire finding radar was the first to detect and respond to the incoming rounds, the first to share the enemy firing coordinates with the other artillery and the first to respond with a withering fusillade that had a deafening sound like ripping metal. Even before the Free Cuban guns started to slew their gun barrels into position to return fire, the PHALANX had knocked down the incoming rockets or mortars and in a few cases returned fire.
Nearly every artillery round fired by the Communists was answered by assorted Free Cuban artillery which was directed onto the target by the radar detection units which tracked the trajectory of the incoming enemy round. The coordinates of the enemy artillery battery was sent via radio directly to the scattered and well dug in Free Cuban batteries even before the enemy rounds hit.
After 30 minutes of this sporadic dueling it seemed the Communists had learned their lesson and were using their guns, mortars and RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades) with much less frequency in a ‘fire once and bug out as fast as you can’ mode. Even that did not help them much. The computer quickly located the exact enemy firing position. It identified the type of weapon that fired it. It recorded the exact time it was fired. The spot was marked on the computer screen displaying a map. The spot on the operator’s screen had growing concentric circles that encircled the offending spot. These growing circles showed the distance that the enemy could have traveled since shooting their gun. The fire control operator quickly clicked the mouse on the spots of the map that he had the best chance of hitting the enemy fleeing from their firing positions. In many cases the predator drones could give real time video image of the area to spot enemy activity. In all cases the coordinates were automatically sent to the Free Cuban guns that sent their shells to the target. It was a very dangerous business to try to bombard Zip Petra’s “little flock” as he called them. This was to serve as a lesson to the Communist forces that the Free Cubans were going to be unstoppable. If you fired upon the Free Cubans you would bring down upon your head a rain of steel and death.
On the outskirts of Guantanamo city the first real infantry engagement was about to begin. There was plenty of Communist armor however ineffective it was. The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) had over 1500 tanks in their inventory, at least on the books. Only about 400 were battle worthy. They were made up of the ancient World War II T34’s, the 50’s era T54xxiii and 55’s and the most modern but still antiquated T62’s.
The Free Cuban Armed Forces were comparatively small, the entire force numbering no more than 32,000. But the equipment that they employed was second to none in the world. With the advantage that technology afforded, they hoped they would be impossible to dislodge from defensive positions and unstoppable on the attack.
*Ciego de Avila. Ministry of the Interior armory *
October 1, 2018 L Day 11:07 AM (Note dates and times carefully)
Jose and his team waited outside the armory building in the warm sun. It seemed almost peaceful. He heard two voices and frenzied movement from inside the building. Quiet again descended except the buzzing of some flies. Nothing happened. The men grew anxious and were ready to throw in the grenades. Jose calmed the ones around him. They had a little time before they needed to draw this action to a close. “Just be patient, give them time to think. I’ll talk to them again in a few minutes,” he whispered. He sat back and lit a cigar. Two minutes later a gun report boomed at the back of the building, then nothing. Jose ran wide around his men who surrounded the north side of the building. There he found a man Jose had never seen before. The man started in, “I am Tito. A guy poked his head out of the back door. It looked like he was going to run for it. I just scared him. I shot the wall above his head.” Jose was very pleased that this Tito fellow acted with such restraint and that no blood was shed …yet. Jose made it back to where he left his cigar which now lay cold. He re-lit it, sat and waited. It was another two minutes before Jose could not wait any longer. The longer he waited the more worried he became. He also thought that approaching the building while puffing on a cigar would lend an air of much needed confidence. He crouched closer to the edge of the raised road that overlooked the building. “Hey soldiers, I am coming to talk to you, don’t shoot. OK?” He repeated again until he received an “OK, OK come ahead” from the front window. When he approached the font door an older voice called out “Stop there.” Jose started in, “did you think about what you’re going to do?” The older voice said, “ I’m all for coming out but this young guy I’m with wants to hold out till help arrives.” Jose thought for a minute then replied “can you hear me young guy?”
“Yes” said another voice. It was a much deeper voice than Jose expected.
“Look,” said Jose, “I will parole you so you can go home. You will get all your back pay the communists owe you, it’s guaranteed by the new government. I’ll even pay you tomorrow if you like. This revolution is only a few days old, if you join us now you’re guaranteed tens of thousands of dollars even a hundred thousand or more. Cuban real estate alone is worth at least one-hundred-and-sixty-five-billion U.S. dollars. You know how much those FCAF’s (he used the derogatory slang) in Guantanamo will get paid? Over one million dollars each!” Jose could tell the money issue was going over this guy’s head. “Look, in addition to all of that I’ll give you free immigration to the U.S. to you and all of your family.”
The older man shuffled his feet in the darkness. “Phssss,” he hissed in disbelief. “No commander’s gonna take me.”
“I would,” Jose quickly interjected, “you can join our group. It’s as simple as that. Any commander even on the sergeant level can authorize you to join. No one has gotten hurt here. So we have no hard feelings toward you,” replied Jose.
The older man said he was going to come out then added, pointing to the young man in the next room, “This one, won’t.”
Jose then said in a voice loud enough for the younger man to hear “Very well then. Come with me. That is one less that has to die today and one more comrade found,” said Jose. The older man stepped out into the sunshine and let the screen door slam shut. To Jose’s surprise four other men filed out with their hands held up to show they were not armed. All the men walked single file back to Jose’s spot. Then the sound of breaking glass could be heard. The rebels were throwing rocks through the windows and now jeering at the lone man left in the building. The young communist responded by sticking his AK-47 out the window and firing a volley of automatic rifle fire at his antagonists. One round caught a rebel named Eduardo in the throat and dropped him silently and unseen behind a parked MINIT (Ministry of the Interior) truck. The other rebels responded with a withering fire concentrated on that room. Others who were stationed around the building came running to help out as well. When the firing abated a yell came from the building. “I’m hit. Don’t shoot.” Ten seconds passed where no one moved. Then a yell came from the rebels’ line “Eduardo’s down… he was hit.”
[*September 21, 2018. “L” Day or Liberation Day. *]
Five kilometers off the Cienfuegos Harbor entrance
Gustavo Kane had finished untying the last hemp rope that lashed the Littoral Sea Minexxiv (LSM) to the bottom of his old fishing boat. The Mine dropped one-hundred and fifty meters to the sea floor. The term Littoral meaning ‘near shore’. The old stained fishing boat and the newest high tech sea mine in the United States inventory made for an odd couple. They were about as different as you could get but they worked well enough together. One providing the subterfuge, the other providing unmatched, high tech killing power. It was a partnership that would be repeated time and again in the coming conflict.
This mine was quite a bit different from the old round porcupine mines moored by a tether to the ocean floor. This was more of a robotic killer than dumb bomb. Enclosed in a protective tube was a very smart torpedo. As it lay in the dark cold depths, three of its long legs folded down, tipping the tube to an upright firing position. The legs dug firmly into the soft muck of the deep ocean. There it waited patiently for its quarry. It was programmed to be very discriminating in its targets. It listened for the exact acoustic signature of a particular type of ship. Among other things it listened for the machinery noises of the transients passing within ten kilometers. It compared those mechanical noises to the blade count of the ships propellers and could accurately identify the exact class and type of vessel. Every ship coming or going from the Communist Naval Base at Cienfuegos was now in range of this ever watchful sentry and killer.
September 30, 2018. 10:27 PM
Ensenada de la Broa, south of Havana
L Day (Liberation Day)
The old, tired, huge cargo ship named the F.C.N. Martinezxxv had just finished firing its guided MLRS missiles. The ship was named after Alcides Martinez, a patriot who was tortured by the Communists for months almost to the point of madness but survived to live in Miami.
The Martinez was the most exposed of all the Free Cuban missile ships. It had crept deep into the Ensenada de la Broa south of Havana and Matanzas. It had to get close because it was armed with only shorter range MLRM missiles. While the rest of the twelve missile ships were now pointing their bows directly away from Cuba and running for their lives the Martinez had to thread its way through the endless archipelagos of the southern Cuban coast to get home.
Only two missiles remained in their launch tubes. The smoke from the last missile was clearing when the ship turned southeast to round the peninsula de Zapata before it could turn southwest and run for Gitmo as fast as its power plant could carry it, which was not very fast.
Cienfuegos Naval Base
[*September 30, 2018. 11:05 PM *]
Within minutes after the Martinez launched its missiles a Communist Osa II Class patrol boatxxvi sped through the mouth of the Cienfuegos bay and into the open ocean. At nearly thirty knots its bow cut through the waves like a sleek looking destroyer. The aft section however was marred by four bulky missile housings. It reminded one of a Ferrari with trash cans strapped on top of it. However unfortunate the missile tubes looked, they were the reason for this boat’s existence.
Without warning a large white flash appeared in the dark water just beneath the speeding patrol boat. The surface of the water shot skyward lifting the ship and breaking its back. The force of the explosive, over four times more powerful in the water than land, nearly ripped the boat in two. Water rushed in to find the bulkhead hatches wide open, allowing water to flood the ship nearly instantaneously. The sleek little ship slipped beneath the calm evening sea like a submarine diving to the inky black depths below. It left nothing behind but a few survivors, debris and burning diesel fuel floating on the water to mark its grave and to testify of the violence that sent it there.
Safely moored to the docks of the Cienfuegos naval base Captain Arkady Borronto stood on the bridge of the Marina de Guerra Revolucionaria (MG) Antonio Maceo. The OSA II class patrol boat was named after one of the leaders of Cuba’s independence struggle. The captain was listening intently to the report coming over the radio: “The Giron just sank. It blew up and sank. Just like that!” The radar operator spoke with a mixture of sickness and disbelief. “My guy saw it. It was afire then disappeared within seconds. On radar, it was there and… and then it was gone.”
Listening to the report paralyzed the Captain with indecision. He had been ordered to pursue and destroy the FCNF ships as indeed the Giron had been. His ship would have been the one sinking to the bottom if he had not been delayed by loading on fuel. As a proud captain he was reduced to using personal contacts to scrounge up his own fuel and still found himself waiting at the docks for the trucks to deliver it.
The Captain grabbed the mike. “Did you see any inbound missiles?”
“Negative, Sir. There were no incoming missiles on the radar. I definitely would have seen them. I am playing back the tape now…and … no, no inbound missiles Sir.”
The radio crackled again “I have a guy on the phone who was actually watching the Giron when it was hit,” the radar operator added, “He saw no incoming missile either.”
The Lieutenant standing next to Captain Arkady Borronto piped in conversationally to two operators working the radar screens but clearly meant for the Captain’s ears. “It’s got to be a mine or torpedo. They would not have heard a torpedo. Their speed would have been too great to allow the use of passive sonar, plus they would not have had time to even extend the sonar cable.”
“Yes, yes,” responded Arkady, “we must assume it was a mine or torpedo. I don’t believe American submarines would attack without some diplomatic warning. Their command structure is too strategic, too rigid and sluggish to pull that off. I don’t believe in coincidences either and this was just too much of a coincidence for a regular static mine. I’m guessing it was one of those new torpedo mines.”
The Lieutenant looked puzzled at the Captain as though he may have some top secret information that he was not privy to. “I didn’t know those types of sea mines were in production or even operational.”
“Nobody thought they were operational,” said the Arkady “but what do we know anyhow?”
“Sir, it could be a laser weapon or some other secret weapon or something.” The Lieutenant’s sentence trailed off into unintelligible mumbles.
“It could be,” responded Arkady, “but when you hear hoof beats, it is safer to assume they are horses rather than zebra,” quoting an old saying.
Three hours after the Giron went to the bottom Captain Arkady Borronto guided his missile boat carefully and slowly out of the mouth of Cienfuegos bay.
The proud, sleek, fast M.G. Maceo was sandwiched between two large, lumbering vessels. With a large cargo vessel no more than twenty meters off his starboard and a small oil tanker fifteen meters off his port Arkady was thankful for a glassy smooth sea. One benefit of going barely six knots was that he could make full use of his sonar capabilities. True, they were very limited and not nearly as sophisticated as other naval vessels but they could certainly hear the approach of a torpedo.
Five hundred feet under the water the three long claws of the Littoral sea mine dug tenaciously into the soft sea floor. The odd trio of ships passed within three kilometers of the silent sentinel. Periodically the distinct acoustic signature of the OSA class missile boat would be heard by the mine only to be lost again when masked by its larger escorts. Eventually, as the ships headed out to sea the mine gained a clear “line of sight” on the fleeing Maceo’s aft section and the very smart torpedo launched itself from its protective tube. In six seconds it reached its cruising speed of forty-eight knots and settled into its search depth of twenty meters, just above the thermo cline, the layer of cold water that could degrade its sonar capabilities. The torpedo went into full combat mode actively pinging its sonar. It could not miss the large return of the three ships now turning to the northwest.
The intercom snapped to life on the bridge of the MG Antonio Maceo Giron “Captain, Sonar, I have high speed screws.” the sonar operator calmly but firmly reported. There was a pause then “high speed transient bearing two-zero-two. Closing rapidly. No range or speed Sir.”
Arkady turned to the Lieutenant. “Get those ships to close in, but tell them not to smash us.” He grabbed the mike. “All hands, this is the Captain. We have an incoming torpedo. Prepare for impact.”
The torpedo was upon them before the ships could obey. As everyone on the ship braced themselves for what could quite possibly be their last moments alive, nothing happened.
“The torpedo passed underneath us, Sir,” the operator reported.
The bridge came alive with congratulatory smiles replacing the fear filled faces of moments ago.
As the torpedo approached the Maceo the smart brain inside it could not reconcile the fact that the target’s magnetic signature did not match its acoustic profile. The three ships were close enough together to produce the illusion of one large ship.
Sea mines were a nasty business. Hit the wrong vessel and it could easily bring the Free Cubans more trouble than they wanted. More than once a nation entered a war because a ship with its citizens was sent to the bottom, the Lusitania, being one. That one attack turned American opinion against the Germans and was a big factor in America declaring war against them in World War I. The Free Cubans did not care to send a Chinese frigate to the bottom and bring them into the middle of this conflict. “One war at a time,” as Abraham Lincoln said. Therefore the mine was programmed to not hit anything it could not identify perfectly.
The torpedo mine slowed to eight knots cruising in a serpentine pattern back and forth under the three ships irresistibly drawn to the sounds of the Giron like a shark smelling blood yet keeping a safe distance from its prey. At this reduced speed the stumpy little torpedo could dog the ships for more than eight hours before running out of power.
For two hours the Giron held its protectors even closer inevitably bumping and smashing each other. Arkady could only guess why the torpedo was prowling about them, incessantly approaching, then passing beneath them only to reappear again and again. Was it a defective torpedo? Was it something else? The one thing he did know was that his ship and his men were alive and he intended on keeping them so. The thought of leading his beloved men to their deaths fighting the change in Cuba that must come sickened him. Yet duty and loyalty held him captive to the miserable regime that entrusted and honored him. There simply was no alternative for him.
At a distance of thirty-three kilometers the Giron positively identified the Free Cuban ship Martinez and fired one of the four STYXxxvii surface-to-surface missiles. The huge 2,300 kilogram missile blasted skyward. The rocket exhaust scoured the deck with a huge plume of fire.
The missile’s active radar acquired the Martinez and sped at nearly the speed of sound toward it.
The Martinez answered in kind launching two fiery missiles in return.
At ten meters above the Martinez’ highest antenna and twenty meters to starboard four-hundred-thirty kilograms of high explosives detonated in a huge fireball that ripped at the huge cargo vessel. The superstructure was now a burning mound of shredded steel. A large split resembling a gaping paper tear traveled from the badly dented gunwale to below the waterline. A piece of steel the size of a truck was missing from the side of the ship above the waterline. Fires appeared nearly everywhere on deck.
The MLRS missiles the Free Cubans fired were very accurate when given a stationary target but were somewhat of a guessing game when shooting at moving ones. The first of the missiles went long. Five hundred meters behind the trio of Communist ships the sea erupted in a tight pattern of six hundred white flashes on the dark sea. Had the warship Maceo been within that pattern it would have been all over for the ship. At the very least it would have been so severely damaged that it would have had to draw off in order to fight the inevitable fires that would have ensued.
The second missile’s skin separated at a much higher altitude resulting in very wide dispersal of the bomblets. Two of the mini grenades hit the Communist cargo ship doing no noticeable damage. None hit the missile boat but one struck the small oilier which started a fire amidships. Within a few seconds the fire was clearly out of control. The oiler veered off from its two companions and was abandoned.
Arkady hugged his sole remaining escort even tighter as the prowling torpedo seemed to take a renewed interest in the duo.
F-15E – Freedom One
September 30, 2018 9:01 PM. L Day minus One
30 km south of Antonio de los Banos Air Base
“Warning, airborne search radar tracking, nine o’clock, thirty miles. MiG-29”xxviii the computer reported.
“Holy mackerel, looks like we’ve got the “A” team coming after us. He doesn’t have us yet but some one is vectoring him in on us. We’re gonna have to pop some slammers,” said Izzy. The AIM-120C air-to-air missile was the F-15’s most beloved plane killer, the crews nicknamed it the slammer,—a radar-guided supersonic missile capable of hitting enemy fighters as far as forty-five miles away. Tonight the F-15 carried half of its normal load of eight missiles to make room for its bomb load of twelve five-hundred pounders. “Let’s step it down to COLA.”
Cuco shoved the throttles to full military power and ordered the computer to COLA mode. COLA, or Computer-generated Lowest Altitude, used both the terrain and cultural data in the terrain-following computer and combined it with occasional burst from the laser radar and air data information to compute the absolute lowest altitude the F-15 could fly, depending on airspeed, terrain, obstructions, and flight performance. The faster the fighter flew, the more aggressively the autopilot would hug the ground—literally flying at treetop level if it could.
“Those MiGs tracking eight o’clock, twenty miles, altitude ten thousand feet. I don’t want them on our tail, man.” Izzy said.
“Hit em, Izzy.”
Izzy bypassed the voice command to the computer and released two AMRAMM missiles.
“Launch commit one slammer right pylon. Launch commit one Slammer left pylon,” the computer reported. The missiles rumbled off into the black night as both pilots looked away to protect their night vision as best they could. The AIM-120 Slammer missiles flew an “over-the-shoulder” launch profile, arcing over the F-15, then back toward the Cuban MiGs. The laser radar array automatically activated for two seconds, updating the Slammer’s autopilot with the fighters’ flight path. The missiles climbed above the MiGs, then descended rapidly toward the spot where the missile predicted the MiGs would be at impact. Ten seconds before impact, the LADAR flashed on again, up-dating the missile’s autopilot for the last time. Five seconds before impact, the missile’s own radar activated and locked onto the two MiG fighters.
The first indication that the MiG fighters had that they were under attack was a “MISSILE LOCK” warning five seconds before impact.
The MiG pilots did exactly what they were supposed to do, executing a textbook formation breakaway, climbing and turning away from each other. It was just too late for them. Actually, it was too late for them the second the missiles left their rails. It was the most deadly missile in the world. It just did not miss.
The thirty-seven-pound shaped warhead detonated like a shotgun blast a fraction of a second before the missile hit the first MiG right above and to the left of the engine intake. The MiG-29’s heavy steel hull, reinforced with titanium—the MiG-29 was designed to fly at nearly three times the speed of sound—deflected most of the energy of the blast. But the missile still had enough punch to crack the fuselage, rip open the fuselage fuel tank, and smack the engine. Running at one hundred percent power, the engine didn’t need much of a hit. The engine’s turbine blades, knocked out of their precisely engineered high-speed orbits, shot through the engine case like bullets flying in all directions; the extreme heat from the engines ignited the fuel from the ruptured fuel tank, turning the plane into a fireball.xxix
A moment later the second missile struck the other MiG exploding squarely on the enemy’s belly centerline as it turned sharply away from the missile. The shaped warhead drove its self-forging projectile or “spoon” through the plane as though it wasn’t there. The shrapnel pierced all of the fuel tanks and both engines bending the nose and cockpit like a pocket knife. The MiG pilot had less than a heartbeat to punch out before the fireball destroyed him. A parachute appeared as the wreckage headed toward the sea.
No aviator in the world would have been surprised at the outcome this engagement. The F-15 had 120 air-to-air kills to its credit with zero combat losses. In many of those engagements the F-15 was out numbered, fighting against the most advanced fighters in the world and against top of the line pilots. With the new AMRAMM missiles the F-15 Eagle had just gained another leap in superiority.
Cuco’s strike package flew safely by four SA-2 and SA-3 sites that guarded the approaches to the San Antonio de los Banos air base situated outside of Havana. In truth these ageing relics of the 60’s would have been quite easy to fly in low and knock out. But it was wonderful to have them silenced so early in the game. The Freedom strike force definitely had plenty to keep them busy tonight.
“LADAR coming on… now,” Izzy reported. Seconds later: LADAR standby.”
After studying the snapshot created by the laser for a second Izzy continued, “four bandits, two at two o’clock seem to be egressing area. Freedom two, take lead, engage two MiG-23’s at eleven o’clock, thirty miles, high, south-east-bound at high speed.” Izzy wanted their wingman to unload some of those older AIM-7 xxxSparrows to save his last two remaining Slammers. The Sparrows were clearly one of the best radar guided missile in the world and he was totally confident in their ability. It had proven to be a potent air-to-air weapon knocking down twenty-two Iraqi fixed wing aircraftxxxi but the Phantom-4 aircraft’s job tonight was to play a dangerous game of chicken with the Communist Surface-to-air missile systems. Freedom Two was to fearlessly fly toward the Anti-aircraft missile batteries and fire his HARM anti-radiation missiles into them. It would be a disaster if the Phantom lost the chicken fight and went down with four precious missiles still hanging on its rails. Freedom One fell behind its companion as the Phantom set up his shot.
“Closing speed eleven hundred knots, Fox one, Fox one, ” Freedom Two announced, giving notice that he was firing two radar guided missiles. The supersonic AIM-7’s shot into the night more like bullets than missiles. The Phantom continuously “painted” the enemy planes with its radar as missiles followed the radar bouncing back from the MiG’s. Of course the MiG’s detected the radar lock at once. One of the MiG’s started a climbing turn to the west as the other dove for the deck turning to the east. The diving MiG engaged his electronic countermeasures hoping to jam the missile but that only gave the missile another signal source to home in on. The MiG began dropping decoy flares and dispensing chaff creating radar decoys. Those countermeasures may have worked a generation ago against older radar guided missiles but they were hopelessly outdated against the latest generation of plane killers. As the missile closed the distance the MiG pilot violently bucked and jinked the aircraft in an attempt to get the missile to overcorrect and overshoot the aircraft but it was no use. The missile did indeed overcorrect and flew a few feet over the starboard wing but its very smart autopilot knew what was going on. It knew that it was not going to get any closer to the plane than it was now, and detonated. The wing folded and tore off in the blink of an eye.
“Splash MiG One,” came the AWACS voice again.
The second MiG was climbing as fast as his afterburners would take him. The Sparrow, like its larger cousin the Phoenix, would burn up its solid rocket propellant in an unbelievably fast sprint then use its momentum to glide the rest of the way into the target. The Soviet doctrine to counter both of the missiles would sometimes include a hard climb to have the missile try to follow after its quarry while in its coasting phase, thus slowing the missile, decreasing its range and making it easier to evade. The MiG pilot dispensed chaff and flares which did not distract the Sparrow for even a moment. The MiG pilot quickly realized he would not shake this missile. He rolled his aircraft away from the missile’s point of impact to have it hit on the underside and rear of the plane. He wanted as much protection between him and the explosion as possible. It saved his life.
Izzy took another shot with the LADAR and got a crystal clear snapshot of the pilot ejecting as the smoking MiG continued to climb. “That one goes on my desk,” he thought.
“Splash MiG Two,” said the AWACS voice in a very business like tone.
As soon as Freedom Two engaged the MiG-23’s Cuco ran straight for his intended target, the runways and taxi ways of the largest military airbase in Cuba. Freedom One popped up to two thousand feet to drop a string of satellite guided GBU-38xxxii bombs.
“Warning, Shilka, xxxiiigun radar tracking, six o’clock, five-hundred meters,” the computer reported.
“Pepe, AA gun, on our six, engage,” Izzy said.
“Two.” Pepe turned toward the mobile gun before the second MiG had crashed into the ground.
Cuco’s F-15 was equipped with one ALE-29 pod loaded with thirty infrared missile-decoy flares and one ALE-39 box loaded with sixty chaff cartridges to decoy radar-guided missiles. The pods were supposed to be slaved to the AAR-47 IR warning sensor and the ALR-45 radar threat-warning receiver so cartridges would eject automatically, but the system had so many false alarms that the decoy dispensers were left on manual all the time. Izzy hit the chaff-and-flare buttons dispensing clouds of radar reflecting chaff between the F-15 and the four barreled mobile gun. Cuco flew straight and level for three-and-a-half seconds, lining up the final drop.
The GPS computer downloaded the updated coordinates to the bombs the moment before they dropped. Now the GPS’ work was done. As six of the five-hundred pound bombs dropped away from the aircraft the inertial navigation system on each bomb could accurately sense the slightest three dimensional movement. It knew exactly where it was in relation to the target and made corrections accordingly. The bombs penetrated deep into the hardened runways before exploding. This attack would provide one of the best damage assessment pictures of the war. Three perfectly placed bombs in a row cutting the three runways exactly in half. Three more strategically placed five-hundred pounders cratered the taxiways leading from the hardened aircraft shelters to the runways.
Now the ZSU-23 “Shilka”xxxiv four-barreled anti-aircraft gun opened up on Freedom One as it pulled away from the target. “Not a bad ambush” thought Cuco. The gunner had not radiated the F-15 until he was committed to his attack but by then the best the gun could manage was a good burst of rounds at a fleeing aircraft. In a flash of thought it was evident to Cuco that the gun commander wanted to live more than he wanted to shoot down enemy planes. When the MiG’s scrambled he must have moved his gun to this location probably twenty minutes before the attack. He figured the rebels would come in from the south. Better to shoot at the enemy’s tail rather than its nose.
Pepe, following in Freedom Two, was streaking toward the Shilka. The gun dish radar signature made an easy shot for the HARM anti-radiation missile. A very, very easy target with the gun shooting in the other direction. Pepe switched to guns and made the twelve second run to get within strafing range. It was a gamble. The gun could have easily swung its four barrels one-hundred-eighty degrees toward the approaching Phantom but it was concentrating too hard on the fleeing F-15. Pepe lowered his night-vision goggles in preparation of his strafing run. “Fox Three,” Pepe reported as he pulled the trigger on his flight stick. He fired three short bursts of twenty millimeter rounds into the tank chassis. His first burst hit slightly to the right of the vehicle. He walked the rounds over the top of the tank chassis aiming for the radar dish sitting atop the vehicle. His next two bursts flailed the tank viciously, ripping through the thin armor and setting it afire.
Izzy started in again, “OK, we’ve got two MiG-21’s at…”
“I got it!” said Cuco. “Freedom Two, good work guys, two MiG’s at your …uh… southeast, inbound, seventy miles, high, pop up and engage the northern one with one missile, both will scatter, I’ll set up a Fox Three (gun) shot on the other one.
This unconventional and risky maneuver would let Pepe keep one AIM-7 missile in reserve for the long mission ahead. Cuco jealously guarded his two remaining AMRAAM missiles. They had two more air bases to bomb and had the entire Communist air force ready to protect them.
“Izzy, we’re going to fly COLA (low) right past him, this guy has very poor Doppler (look down, shoot down) capabilities. Besides, he’ll be busy dodging Pepe’s missile.”
“OK man, I hope he’s flying as dumb as you think he his,” said Izzy. Freedom One now increased its lead to five miles in front of Freedom Two. Izzy took another laser snapshot to confirm Freedom Two was within missile range. “Freedom Two, two MiG-21’s, eleven o’clock, thirty miles, twenty thousand feet.”
Pepe popped up, radiated the bandits, and fired one AIM-7 missile and engaged his electronic jamming.
True to Soviet doctrine both fighters split up. The southern MiG quickly determined that he was not targeted. He lit his afterburner to charge after the American F-4 Phantom and unknowingly right toward Cuco’s F-15. He was out of range but not for long. Just before the attack he had picked up Freedom One as an intermittent contact with his newly upgraded French-made radar. Even though he was getting heavy jamming the new radar was sophisticated enough to frequency hop and avoid most of it at this range. Then, out of nowhere, there it was, the MiG pilot had a lock-on Cuco’s F-15, good enough for a radar range and firing solution. He quickly selected his PL-7 radar-guided missile (a recent gift from the Chinese) and fired off two.
Izzy nervously watched the MiG stumble right into their flight path closing the distance between the two planes. He stared at the threat-indicator light as the seconds seemed to pass like minutes. As soon as it illuminated, he shouted, “Missile launch! Break right!” while he ejected chaff. Both airmen were smashed into their seats with six times their body weight as Cuco banked to starboard. Izzy’s helmet banged against the canopy but he managed to keep his finger on the chaff button long enough to create a good-sized cloud.
Izzy’s G-suit squeezed painfully as it inflated around his legs and abdomen to prevent blood from pooling there during the heavy G load. He battled the effects by doing the “toilet Grunts,” tightening his stomach muscles as though straining on a toilet in an attempt to stay conscious. Through all this, he struggled to refocus his eyes on his threat display. His automatic jamming system picked out the best frequency range and applied it to the correct antennae for the threat—in this case, a Z3-band uplink signal driven to the tail antennae—and it would pump out chaff as well.
As Izzy tracked the Chinese missile, it seemed to waver from the F-15 to the chaff, not entirely fooled.
Izzy said “Deploying towed array.” From the tail of the F-15 a small aerodynamic cylindrical object extended out in the fighter’s slipstream on an armored fiber-optic cable, quickly going out three hundred feet from the tail. The object was an ALE-55, a transmitter that could broadcast a variety of signals—radar jamming, spoofing, noise, heat, or laser signals. When the array was extended, Izzy called up a program on the defensive system and activated it.
On board the MiG-21, the pilot’s radar warning receivers started to go crazy—it was as if an entire squadron of American F-15 fighters were closing in on him. As he was wondering why he hadn’t seen them coming, suddenly the radar warning receiver told him every one of the F-15s was launching missiles at him! The Americans must be invading he thought. A few more moments was all he needed to bag this American lackey and make it into the history books as the first, and maybe only, pilot to shoot down a F-15 in combat.
As the missile closed the distance to the F-15 the jamming became more effective as the fighter’s uplink to the missile was degraded. Izzy waited for the missile to approach a little closer. “Ready to break right,” Izzy said in an icy calm voice. He overrode the automatic jammers and reduced the transmitter power in half, letting a strong fighter fire control lock on the bleedthrough. The fighter regained a strong communication link with the missile for just a moment. With perfect timing Izzy began pumping out chaff once more. The trailing ALE-55 transmitter was dragged through the chaff cloud leading the missile into the radar decoy then shut down all decoy signals the instant it pulled through the cloud. That same instant the computer resumed full power jamming, cutting off the uplink between the missile and the enemy fighter and destroying the radar picture the missile had of the target. “Break right!” It was a dangerous ballet with timing that was literally quicker than lightning.
The MiG pilot had his hands full just interpreting his picture of the air battle. Through all the false spoofing signals, the attack of the imaginary F-15 squadron and the very effective jamming that made a mess of his radar picture, he had seen three radar targets. The first was obviously a chaff cloud. It had begun dissipating quickly. The PL-7 missiles had wavered slightly but had not been fooled. One more second passed and the missile seemed to get a firm lock on the second chaff cloud, then he lost the missile. The MiG pilot saw both missiles plow through the big radar bright chaff cloud while the F-15 was scooting away to the right at high speed.
The MiG pilot flipped to his heat seeking missiles but could not sift through the swarm of false F-15 radar images and could not get a tone signaling the heat-seeking missile had locked onto the target. “(Expletive, expletive, expletive)” the MiG pilot swore as he broke off his chase. He made a hard one-hundred-eighty degree turn while dispensing chaff and flares and high tailed it back toward his base at Santa Clara, two-hundred-seventy kilometers to the east.
Izzy was still in the mindset of countering the threat. “I’m setting up a Slammer shot,” Izzy said as he activated the LADAR. It was just the next thing on his long list of counters he was going to pull out of his bag of tricks in the next very busy seconds. “Negative, negative, he’s buggin out, let’s go get him,” Cuco said as he initiated another six G bank to port. Cuco lit up the MiG with his radar which again set the MiG’s radar detector screaming. After a short stern chase in full afterburner Cuco closed the distance with the MiG. The MiG-21 started to jink and turn to spoil Cuco’s aim. Like everything on the F-15, the gun system had been continuously improved. The round that the Vulcan cannon fired was the new improved PGU-28xxxv which had armor piercing, explosive fragmentation, and incendiary effects in each round. The new gunsight—or more properly, the gunsight symbology for the HUD (heads up display) greatly eased the task of aiming and radically improved gunnery accuracy and made the gun a much more dangerous weapon. Cuco worked his way in close, one quarter mile, and put the MiG between the lines of the funnel shaped gunsight. Before Cuco could fire the MiG’s left wing slid downward and the enemy plane seemed to literally drop from the sky. The MiG disappeared below his HUD. Cuco pushed his nose down and followed his quarry into a twirling inverted dive. Cuco’s heart pounded wildly in his chest as his body was being pinched and pulled from the G forces. The dive was getting scary when the MiG’s rear tail fins sailed into Cuco’s targeting pipper.
As the MiG still desperately dove for the ground in an attempt to evade, Cuco squeezed the trigger sending out a stream of cannon shells. At six thousand rounds per minute, the short one second burst ripped a line from the fuselage to the port wingtip exploding the wing in flame. The MiG did not pull out of the dive and plowed straight into the ground creating a thunderous fireball.
“Freedom One, this is Panhandle,” the AWACS called. “Be advised no bandits as far as Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz air base was heavily hit. Multiple bandits, fifteen plus now vectoring toward Santa Clara. Santa Clara Air Base was not hit, repeat, not hit. It is fully operational. All other airbases were hit.”
“One,” Cuco acknowledged.
They were coming up fast on their second target, the smaller airbase of Santa Cruz just east of Havana. Their third and last target was Santa Clara, two hundred kilometers to their east. Now their task of bombing its runways was made nearly impossible. The radar and SAM sites were up and running, they knew they were going to be attacked and every dog in the pack was gathering to the defense.
The Communist airbase of Holguin, far to the east, would have been bombed by now. It looked as though they were abandoning the defense of their eastern bases. The Communist fighters were leaving their sectors and flying to their only undamaged airbase, Santa Clara in the middle of the Island.
“Freedom one to Freedom two, I’m picking up no Surface to Air radar. I want to go in high. I smell MANPADS” (short-range man-portable air defense missile).
“Rodger Kook, I’m going angels seven,” said Pepe as the Phantom streaked skyward to induce any Surface-to-air missile site to come out of hiding. None appeared, so Freedom One climbed high to join his wingman. “LADAR coming on… now”. The laser radar array electronically scanned thousands of cubic miles of space in every direction thirty times per second. It was activated only for a few seconds but its power and tight resolution drew an amazingly detailed picture of all air targets within a hundred miles. Cuco’s real interest right this minute was the military air base at Santa Cruz. The LADAR gave him a crystal-clear high-resolution digital photograph of its runways and taxiways. “Looks good. We got a transport down there. We’re going in,” Cuco said. Just then the threat indicator lit up and Cuco, jumpy from his last dogfight, instinctively banked away from the threat. The computer immediately chimed in “warning, missile launch, SA-18, out of range.” That same instant on the computer screen a green bubble that looked like a giant force field encompassed the missile site showing the limits of the enemy missile’s maximum range. They were flying over a mile above the max range of the shoulder-fired missile. The SA-18 Igla missile could only reach 17,000 feet on a very good day and this was not it.
“It’s a spoiling shot, man. It can’t get us,” Izzy said as he took the control of the stick and brought the plane back on its computer generated bombing path.
As Freedom One approached the target Izzy could see a giant Ilyushin-76xxxvi transport plane taxiing out to the runway. Something sparked near the wing followed by a wave of fire spreading across the ground as hundreds of gallons of avgas poured from the lumbering behemoth and onto the ramp. The transport was sitting atop a small pond of flames in less than ten seconds. One of the thousands of smart mines had found its mark. Three more shoulder fired infrared missiles clawed their way impotently into the sky after them. Izzy held the course steady until the plane lightened as the bombs dropped free.
October 1, 2018. 3:12 AM, L Day
Sixty kilometers southwest of Cienfuegos naval base.
Thomas Gomez was a tall lanky machinist’s mate. He was working in the engine room on the Martinez when the explosion knocked him off his feet. The lights went out leaving him in total darkness and in excruciating pain. His ankles and one heel felt like they had been smashed. He found it easier to crawl about to look for a flashlight. He found one and in the process found the chief mechanic sitting at the controls swearing up a storm about two broken legs. The engines were running and sounded fine but were nearly idling, making barely enough speed for steerage.
Thomas turned on the walkie-talkie holstered on his belt. “Turn on your walkie-talkie, Chief. I’m going to take a look topside.”
The chief mechanic turned his flashlight on Thomas “I’m gettin the blank out of here. Get over here and give me a hand.”
“Negative, Chief. There is no abandon ship order. We all need you there at the controls. I won’t forget you down here. I’ll be back for you.”
“Now wait Gomez, there’s no abandon ship order because everyone above us must be dead or wounded.”
“No. You stay here!” Thomas yelled at the man, now firmly taking control. Thomas crawled up a few gangway ladders to find increasing amounts of smoke and debris strewn everywhere. Thomas decided to put some weight on his feet.
He could stand but only with severe pain in both ankles. On his way topside he found two more walking wounded, a few working light bulbs and a choking pall of smoke. It was evident the Captain and everyone on the bridge was dead. Anyone in the superstructure would not have survived either. Looking around he counted six more men fighting fires and doing a rather good job of it. The fires were not serious and were not spreading anyhow. Not finding anyone with any higher naval rank, a non stop torrent of orders poured from his mouth to anyone upon whom his flashlight alighted.
“You, go below and try to staunch any leaks. You, bring up some containers of diesel fuel. You, bring up those fifty cals (machine guns) and all the ammo. Put them on the bow facing forward but keep them out of sight until I say. You, get some mattresses or seat cushions…” The orders sounded nonsensical but were obeyed. The men were eager to have leadership especially with an enemy ship bearing down on them ready to finish them off. Thomas grabbed the walkie-talkie at his side and yelled into it, “Gomez to engine room.”
The irritable reply came. “Quit screaming, I’m only one-hundred feet away.”
Thomas calmed his voice. “We will run the engines ten more minutes then shut them down. We will go on battery power. When I give the word I will need you to fire them up and give me full power. You will use the steering override. The bridge is destroyed. I will give you a bearing from here, Over.”
“Rodger,” came the reply. Thomas could hear the pain in the Chief’s voice. It was a blessing he did not have to go into long drawn out explanations with him.
Within ten minutes the well trained crew had the fires out on the debris covered deck.
Thomas could see a three-man team was already busy patching the leaks in the hull. One man had rappelled down the side of the ship with a SCUBA tank, a dive mask, headlamp and special magnetic booties and gloves. Also attached to the line was a four-foot by two foot carbon fiber plate patch. It was very light, and very strong. It looked like an oversized Band-aid strip. The rupture in the hull was not very hard to find. It was a split that started at the feet of the men holding the rope and extended straight down into the water. The diver stripped off the protective back of the patch exposing the super strong adhesive. He grabbed the handles attached to the others side of the patch, hit the quick disconnect buttons with his thumbs and freed the plate from the rappelling line. The crack in the hull was no more than two inches wide but it was long. The team lowered two more plates down the rappelling line. Within four and a half minutes from the diver entering the water three plate patches had staunched the leak that threatened the ship.
[*Free Cuban Armed Forces – North invasion force, Guantanamo Cuba *]
October 1, 2018. 10:43 AM “L” Day or Liberation Day.
Any Communist target that could be identified was soon taken out by Free Cuban artillery. The outskirts of Guantanamo city now looked like a ghost town. The Free Cubans moved down the highway in staggered column file along each side of the road toward the city. They spread out along the edge of the city and advanced in fire team rushes in classic hit & roll fashion. They cleared the outlying shantys and secured the area for the next wave. Their plain M16 rifles were in sharp contrast to the Land Warriorxxxvii combat system. The ‘Team Warriors’ as they were called were held in reserve, anxiously awaiting their turn in battle near their Striker APC’s – Armored Personnel Carriers, too valuable to be risked in daylight and on an unknown situation. They were randomly advanced toward the forward edge of battle as the Grunts pushed forward. Not once in the 20 km push from Gitmo to Guantanamo City were they employed. Sporadic gunfire periodically erupted at the front of the advancing column only to be answered by Free Cuban small arms fire in return and the inevitable pinpoint artillery dropped on the Communist position. There were no seriously contested objectives along the route that were not already spotted by U.S. satellites or spy drones and pummeled by artillery. Members of the Fightin’ Fourth Infantry division invested the outskirts of the city. The roaring whine of the M-1 Abrams tanks backed them up. The Free Cuban tanks peeled off from the main road and took up supporting positions as the first incoming enemy tank round ricocheted off of an M-1. In the milliseconds it took for the round to hit the Free Cuban tank its infrared signature was detected, the weapon was identified and its location was displayed on a hearty little computer pad. The new “WeaponWatch”xxxviii detection system had proven far superior to the old “Boomerang” detection apparatus that used an array of microphones to identify enemy fire. Its infrared signature gave away the enemy firing position even before the M-1 tank commander saw the surrounding dust from its muzzle blast. The Communist tank was cleverly hidden inside of a building not much bigger than the tank itself. Only a few inches of the muzzle of the hidden tank could be seen as it protruded from the building. Sergeant Luis Segrera swung the turret toward the disembodied gun barrel “target-tank, Sabot, in the building.”
“Got’em,” the gunner enthused. He fired.
The Soviet T-62 started to back up as soon as the sabot round left the barrel. At this head-on angle it did him very little good. The Sabot round sped toward the target at sixteen hundred and seventy meters per second or about Mach 4. A few small pieces of flying debris were the only tale-tale sign the tank was hit. The T- 62 continued to reverse but somehow seemed like a dead man walking. For about one and one half seconds it gave only a hint that something was wrong with it as high-pressure smoky gasses escaped the interior. The top hatch blew open with a blast of fire unlike any fire Segrera ever had seen in person. It was more like a series of explosions mixed with a volcano of jet exhaust in afterburner shooting straight out of the top hatch. The massive turret rattled and jimmied like a thin lid on a boiling tea pot as explosive fire started coming out of the base where it rested on the body of the tank, then it blew. Segrera saw an antitank missile fly toward the stricken tank and explode in its tank treads. “Man those guys are fast,” he thought. He felt a pang of regret that the missile was wasted, but better two hits than none. Each and every one of the FCAF soldiers seemed to have a keen interest in the amount of money they spent in battle. The need for more money usually meant the necessity of selling more shares in the enterprise to free Cuba. Handing out more shares to investors meant less to share among themselves.
The buildings came alive with the enemy’s small arms fire. The WeaponWatch detectors on top of the tanks, APC’s and the amphibious duk’s in the fight identified the small infrared signatures of the individual muzzle blasts. The GPS coordinates of every one of them were recorded. The info was automatically relayed back to the fire-control unit at Gitmo then assigned to the waiting guns. The Free Cubans needed no warning to take cover for the coming barrage. The Free Cuban 105mm rounds started falling in six round groups that took a little more than one second to land. An enemy would be hard pressed to flinch much less than hit the ground before the sixth one hit. The mortars started to rain down on their individually assigned targets. The Communist artillery started again with their rounds falling long, well behind the Free Cubans. Again the forward Fire Finder Radar detected the trajectory of the incoming rounds and sent the info to fire control headquarters This time the Communists had put their guns as far from the action as they could and were thus out of the range of the 105’s back at Gitmo. The Communist spotters radioed their corrections and started to walk the artillery toward the Free Cubans.
The Multiple Launch Rocket System-MLRS gave the Free Cubans the longest artillery reach on the battlefield. Depending upon the missile it fired its range was 10-300 km. Highly mobile, it could keep up with any mechanized unit. Now two kilometers from the front it elevated its 12 tube launch pod and fired 3 of its 13 ft rockets guided by GPS to the spot at the end of the trajectory rainbow. Above the target the warhead separated, spreading the cluster sub munitions in a large oval pattern. Each M26 rocket carried 644 of these M77 sub munitions. They were small but as deadly as a hand grenade on steroids. They could penetrate up to four inches of armor, send out deadly antipersonnel fragments at 7 times the speed of the fastest rifle bullet and ignite anything flammable in its path. The communist gunners froze in terror as they heard the approaching warhead spin and dispense its deadly cargo with a swooshing “chooook” sound followed by the fluttering of hundreds of ribbon tails that oriented the munitions in the right direction and armed them. The Communists had to place the guns close together to enable them to share targeting data and coordinate the firing which was much more effective if fired in unison. It was a critical error. An area of 200 by 300 meters erupted in explosions, dust and secondary explosions of the shells waiting to be put in the guns. Nearly 2,000 munitions landed among the twenty-eight guns and their vehicles. The shrapnel sliced through the thin armor of the vehicles like butter. Gas tanks and ammunition caches exploded, sending burning shells streaking across the sky. The carnage was nearly universal. It would be a long time before these guns could be repaired and made usable again. The U.S. handbook dictated that the minimum number of missiles that should be used in a normal attack was six. While six missiles may be the minimum, the routine number the U.S. used against a target in Gulf I and II was 24 to 36 missiles. The Iraqis called it steel rain. Cluster munitions were the most terrifying weapons used against them. Studying that amount of overkill, the Free Cubans decided to husband their resources for what could prove to be a target rich war.
“Target, one o’clock-sabot, 500 meters, goin’ south on that street there.” The gunner trained right and centered the sight reticle on the fast moving tank. It was traveling parallel to them and the intervening buildings spoiled his shot as they whizzed through his sight picture. Looking for an open spot to shoot, he spotted a large intersection 200 meters ahead of the tank. He traversed back to rest the cross hairs on the traveling tank. His thumbs depressed the laser button. A thin laser beam of light reached out and bounced off the tank. The range display came up in his sight: 798 meters. The fire control computer plotted target distance, elevating the main gun. The computer measured wind speed and direction, air density and humidity, the temperature of the air, and the tank’s own shells, and all the gunner had to do was place the target in his sights. The whole operation took less than second. “Come on baby, come on,” the gunner breathed. As soon as the T-62 entered the intersection the M-1 jumped at the recoil as the spent round cap clanged off the turret’s floor. Already the closed tank hull stank of the ammonia-based propellant. The racing T-62’s turret blew 30 feet into the air in a blinding conflagration.
“Ozzy, this is DT, coming up on minefield now.” DT was the acronym for the tank named Dragons Teeth. So named for its mine plow mounted on the front of the M1A2. The rest of the platoon knew that crew as the DT’s. Their acronym for Delirium Tremens, the hallucinatory episodes of an alcoholic. Once, in the tank simulators at Ft. Knox Kentucky, its tank commander repeatedly fired upon a distant building that he thought was moving and firing on him. It happened only once but that was enough for the name to stick. And stick it did.
Dragons Teeth peppered the area with fire as a volley of smoke grenades exploded in the air ahead of the tank, masking it to the front. The tank loader, firing the 7.62mm machine gun positioned to the left of the tank commander, sprayed targets to the left. The tank commander knocked down targets to his right with the heavier .55-caliber machine gun. The gunner, hidden inside the tank moved the turret to fire the coaxialxxxix machine gun on targets that popped up to the front. The driver, buttoned up and protected inside his compartment, dropped the mine plow attached to the tank. With all three machine guns blazing, the tank moved forward prepping the area for the mine clearing engineers.
“DT to Peppercorn, if you’re in position you’re clear to proceed.” “Copy” came the response from the combat engineering squad. The M60 armored vehicle lumbered forward towing its two and a half ton trailer. As it came to the forward edge of the hastily placed minefield a mortar like launcher activated, launching a large rocket projectile trailing a five-hundred and forty meter long piece of half-inch rope. As the rope extended its full length the launcher detached itself and the rope sailed through the sky to fall lightly on the ground in a long snake like pattern. The rope was actually a detonator cord filled with explosive. Ten seconds later the cord exploded. The towering fireball from the explosion filled everyones brain with an image that they would remember for the rest of their lives. It was followed by a minihurricane that pounded them like a wave at the beach. Three hundred thousand cubic feet of dirt flew into the sky. The overpressure and shock of the explosion caused every mine within a hundred feet on either side of the detonator cord to explode. The exploding enemy mines caused yet more mines to explode in a domino like reaction.xl
The M1A Dragons Teeth moved forward to plow any skip zones the MICLIC may have missed and cleared a path for follow-on vehicles. xli
Commander in Chief, North-CINC North watched the incoming images and transmissions from the command vehicle still parked inside Gitmo. “Should we bring up Team Warrior?” He asked the field commander over the radio. The field commander glanced down at his watch. 1:53 PM. “Naw, we’ll leave em alone. We’ll bring em up bout nine o’clock. I’ll keep pushin’ till then.” They have a long night ahead of them, he thought. The battle continued as the Free Cubans leap frogged forward the second the last shells landed. It was full thirty seconds till the communist infantry started popping their heads up to see the Free Cubans moving forward. This time, few of the surviving infantry that were on the receiving end of that last artillery barrage leveled their AK-47’s at the oncoming enemy. Not willing to elicit another brutal response from the sky and too close to flee without being cut down, most at the forward edge of battle stayed put and did nothing. There was plenty of repositioning movement going on further up the Communist streets which invited a ferocious response from Free Cuban small arms fire, heavy machine gun fire and grenade launchers. Six M-1A2 tanks continued to engage the remaining armor while eight of the older M-60 battle tanks fired High Explosive-HE rounds and the fearsome APERS Flechettexlii rounds at the infantry.
B Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Armored Cavalry Regiment were now fully in the fight. The fourteen tanks spread out behind the advancing infantry laying down machine gun fire, launching grenades and HE rounds. Segrera had his three-tank platoon slightly elevated overlooking the city’s outlying tattered hovels and dirt streets. Open ruts on the side of the roads with what must be sewage and trash in them. “APC, 2 o’clock, 1200 meters, Heat round.” The Armored Personnel Carrier could not be missed. It was elevated on a facing slope and firing its machine gun furiously. As soon as the gunner spotted it, the bullets started whacking the tank. The APC started to accelerate as its front end lifted slightly. “Sabot, fire,” yelled the gunner as the round streaked toward the target. The tracer blew through the APC with no apparent ill effects. The Sabot round had been loaded and ready to fire when they spotted the APC and he was not about to exchange shells. “Heat, reload.” Just then a TOW anti armor missile streaked toward the APC trailing its two thin wires behind it. Segrera knew it would get it and it did. The TOW missile had a range of four kilometers and reached a speed of nearly Mach one. They were a bit dated but they were deadly accurate. He had never even heard of one missing its target. Even though it was a full generation behind the newer anti-armor missiles it could still destroy any armored vehicle in existence. “Hold your fire,” Segrera yelled at the gunner unnecessarily. The gunner saw the APC explode and lurch to a stop against a wall. Segrera saw a white smoke trail whoosh by his turret. It missed by not more than inches. It was followed by a loud metallic [_WHANG _]that started their ears ringing. Segrera followed the smoke trail back to find two figures well inside their line, running to their left. “Enemy, 11 o’clock, close in, 50 meters.” He fired the machine gun at the figures as the gunner found them and fired a HEAT round one meter short of their position. The figures disappeared in a thunderous dust cloud. Segrera was surprisingly confident for a tank commander that was just hit twice with the best anti-armor weapons the enemy had. He knew the turrets of his tanks were impenetrable to the enemy’s RPG rounds and their best tank cannons. He knew that his depleted uranium armor could resist 1,300mm of explosive force. A 115mm high explosive round from a T62 provided only 450mm of penetration; a puny RPG provided a mere 325mm.
Every one of the crew was thinking of a well-known story that was part of every tanker’s training. During Desert Storm an American tank got stuck in a mud pit near the Euphrates River. The weather was awful during the ground offensive, and it had been raining heavily. Another tank tried to pull out the mired tank, but with no luck. Since the platoon had to continue its mission, the platoon leader told the crew to sit tight and wait a couple of hours for a tank retriever to pull them out.
While the crew waited, three Iraqi T72 tanks came over the hill. The T72 was the best tank the enemy had and far superior to the Communist Cuban T62’s. Deploying on line, the Iraqi tanks attacked the stuck M1A1. The lead T72 fired a 125mm high-explosive anti-tank shell at the front of the M1’s turret. The round exploded against the frontal armor, with no effect on the tank or crew. The crew was surprised but did not panic. Alone, outnumbered, and immobilized, the men immediately made a courageous decision- they decided to fight.
The gunner fired his cannon at the lead Iraqi tank and, in the blink of an eye, blew off the T72’s turret. The second T72 fired a shell that also hit the M1’s frontal armor but did no damage. The American tank commander laid the gun on the second target and fired. He hit the tank and transformed it into a burning inferno.
The last Iraqi tank fired an armor-piercing round that smashed against the M1’s turret but bounced off. The tank raced behind a sand dune about five hundred meters away and hid. Through his thermal sights the American gunner identified the hot exhaust gas coming from the Iraqi tank. He aimed where he thought the enemy was and fired a sabot round into the berm. The depleted uranium dart traveling at more than a mile per second went through the sand berm, hit the T72 tank, and sent its turret fifty feet into the air. xliii
October 1, 2018. 5:35 AM
For two hours the Martinez had been adrift. Mattresses and cushions had been doused with fuel and were safely burning all along the deck. Dawn came to find a beautiful calm Caribbean sea. Gentle swells rolled along pushed by a gentle breeze. Also pushed along by the breeze was a malevolent black plume of smoke that had been rising from the Martinez for over an hour leaving a giant smudge of inky smoke high in the sky. The Communist missile boat came over the horizon. The moment it noticed the missing white surrender flag that should have been flying over the stricken cargo vessel it started to pound the behemoth with thirty millimeter shells. The Martinez was anchored facing its bow toward the oncoming enemy.
Thomas ordered the men below to man the efforts to stop the anticipated flooding the artillery would inevitably cause. For twenty long minutes the lifeless Martinez was pounded mercilessly as the missile boat and its strange escort slowly closed the distance. The pumps and the men fought a losing battle to keep out the water. She was sinking. The forward bulkhead compartments were completely flooded and the engine room was experiencing uncontrollable flooding. The engines would be underwater in no more than a half hour.
The twelve sailors who survived the initial missile attack suffered further thinning of their ranks. All the survivors were wounded to some extent or another but six were still ambulatory. The men took up their positions along the bow. She would not go down without a fight and the time to fight was now.
“Gomez to engine room, fire it up. Full speed ahead, Steer one-one-five.”
“It’s about blanking time,” came the gruff response.
The anchor line was cut. The cargo vessel was ridiculously lethargic. It moved like an iceberg. Thomas Gomes’ heart sank when he saw six of his buddies try to mount the fifty caliber machine guns on the bow. A hail of thirty millimeter rounds from the communist ship met them. A round struck one of the men exploding him in a whitish reddish mist. Luckily the body did not have enough density to set off the armor piercing round as it sailed on through. Three of the fifty caliber machine guns opened up on the communist duo. At a distance of three thousand meters there was no telling if they hit anything. Thomas knew it would be all over for the gunners on the bow in just a few minutes.
At that moment a strange thing happened. The two Communist vessels turned away from the Martinez. The missile boat was now completely shielded by its larger companion. The fifty cals could not hit the vulnerable missiles stored on its deck but neither could the missile boat bring its guns to bear on the Free Cubans.
Thomas was puzzled at the behavior of his enemy. He had absolutely no idea what could make them behave this way. He did, however, had an abiding faith that his adversary was not stupid. They probably had a good reason for doing what they were doing.
Five fifty caliber machine guns were peppering the Communist cargo ship with no discernable effect. The Martinez had increased its speed to six knots and could probably do ten given enough time. But that was a commodity that would soon run out for the aging ship. With every kilometer it rode heavier in the water.
“Gomez to engine room, come to three-five-two.”
“Rodger. You ain’t gonna ferget me down here are ya Thomas?”
“No Chief. I won’t forget you,” he said fatalistically.
Thomas had moved forward to mount another machine gun but found a better use for himself by gathering ammo boxes strewn about the debris covered deck.
Not a shot had been fired from either Communist ship now angling away from them.
“Gomez to engine room, come to two-eight-zero.”
Just two hundred meters to go till the Martinez would smash into its Communist counterpart. Smoke poured from nearly every opening of the midsection of smaller communist cargo vessel. It appeared as though the armored piercing fifty calibers had ignited a fuel tank or two. The propellers stopped churning the water beneath the enemy ship.
Over Communist Cuban Air Base – Santa Cruz
20 km east of Havana
September 30, 2018 9:20 PM
“Bombs away. Lets bug out of here,” Izzy said. Cuco turned hard to starboard (right) and lit up his afterburners. After ten miles he went inverted and dove for the deck.
“Two-hundred-sixty klicks to target, Talk to me Kook, how we goin in,” said Izzy. They egressed the Santa Cruz target area at nearly one thousand miles per hour. They were eating up twenty-six kilometers per minute. In less than ten minutes they would be over their next target. Cuco eased up on the throttles and let his airspeed bleed off.
“Freedom One, this is Panhandle,” The AWACS radar plane broke the silence. “Be advised there are now twenty-six bandits airborne around Santa Clara, or heading there. Seven bogies have formed a picket line search about twenty clicks apart looking for you. They are at your… twelve o’clock, range… one-fifty klicks at… sixteen thousand feet.. You have a MiG-29 at your eleven o’clock same range…”
Cuco formulated the plan in an instant and broke in “Freedom One to Freedom Three and Four. Attack target three from east in twelve minutes. We will come in from the north.”
“Negative Freedom One,” The AWACS responded. The two strike packages now separated by five-hundred-thirty kilometers could hear each other quite well. They had a redundant links through satellite and surveillance aircraft. Obviously Freedom Three and Four in Strike Package Two were busy at the moment, so the AWACS felt free to jump in. “Strike package Two is being vectored to defend Gitmo. Four Bandits are vectoring toward…”
“Negative! Negative!” yelled Cuco.” Who was running the show here? He thought. ‘Are the Americans controlling this air battle or am I? With a somewhat calmer but stern voice he added, “Let the air defenses at Gitmo take care of it.”
The AWACS responded almost apologetically, “Gitmo is ordering them back.” Cuco just grit his teeth. To Izzy he queried, “When was that?”
“I didn’t hear it.” Responded Izzy. “Maybe we were busy.”
“AHHH,” Cuco let out an exasperated groan.
“Ok Izzy, lets see what’s in front of us here.” Cuco said, speaking of the line of enemy planes now searching for them. He popped up to five thousand feet then Izzy radiated the vast dark space in front of them and for good measure downloaded a “dump” of digitized radar pictures from the AWACS radar plane, then they returned to tree top level. The LADAR showed a gap of about fifty kilometers between two of the enemy planes to their south-east. One of the searchers was obviously out of place.
“OK Izzy, we’re going to shoot low through that gap to our three o’clock.”
“Oh yeah, that worked so well with the last guy!” Izzy tried to joke but it went flat.
“You got any other bright ideas!?” Cuco said heatedly. Cuco paused for just a moment then calmly added, “Look, we’re gonna come in low. No way their old spin scan or even their two-twenty-two’s (Chinese built type 222 ranging radar) will pick us up at twenty five klicks (kilometers).”
The search line of MiG-21’s now had a hodgepodge of three different airborne radar systems scanning the sky for them.
“OK, OK,” Izzy repented. “I just don’t like the way you said ‘low.’” Just then, the top of a palm tree zipped by at shoulder height with perfect comic timing. Both of them smiled under their oxygen masks.
“Panhandle to Freedom One, you’ve got a bandit to your two o’clock, one-seventy klicks (kilometers), twenty thousand(feet), at Mach one-point-five. Looks like he’s gonna scoot into that gap right in front of you.”
Cuco slid the throttles forward to increase his speed as he raced for the gap.
October 1, 2018. 5:35 AM
Thomas could not believe they were going to pull it off. He was hauling two boxes of ammo up to the bow when he heard the roar of a missile. He looked up to see an object that looked as big as a car streaking skyward on a gigantic plume of fire and thick white smoke. It had launched from the missile boat that was now pulling away from its powerless companion. The missile flew far to the southeast and began circling back toward the three ships now within knife fighting range of each other.
The instant the missile boat’s forward thirty millimeter gun became unmasked it hammered the bow of the Martinez furiously. Three of the Free Cubans lay where they dropped, their bodies blown apart while the two remaining wounded seamen crawled away from their positions.
Thomas was thrown off his feet as thousands of tons of steel screeched in anguish beneath him. The bow of the Martinez crumpled as it crushed the aft section of the Communist cargo ship in slow motion. It plowed the ship over and rolled it on its side. The communist ship was listing at nearly sixty degrees and taking water over its scuppers, filling the ship with water.
The missile boat brought all four of its thirty millimeter guns to bear, each thrashing the Martinez with five hundred rounds per minute. Thomas stayed on deck feeling he must keep his eye on what was happening since he was in charge. Far in the distance the missile had finished a one-hundred and eighty degree turn and was heading back to the entangled ships.
The sleek warship turned a great circle around the Free Cuban ship firing non-stop.
Thomas kept behind cover as he raced for a fifty caliber machine gun still stored in its container below the hand rail. It was loaded and ready to mount on the rail just as easy as sliding its mounting post into a hole. Unfortunately he would have been slaughtered before he could mount the gun. He drug the gun over to the hawsehole, the large hole for the ship’s anchor cable, and saw it would make an acceptable place to stick the barrel through.
He was content to destroy the remaining two missiles still in their housing on the Communist warship. He did not want any more of his compatriots to be on the receiving end of those monstrous things. With the missile bearing down on him he would be dead in a few seconds anyway. He pointed the gun through the hole, placed the post in a link of the anchor chain and fired the gun. He fired a quick burst to spot where the tracers were going. The gun bounced wildly but held in place. In an instant he corrected his aim and squeezed the trigger vowing never to let up. Through the smoke and noise and the bucking gun he sensed something had happened. Despite his vow, he stopped firing long enough to see the missile boat in the final stages of being blown in halfxliv. He did not have time to feel joy however. The next thing he saw was another malevolent STYX missile hugging the ocean surface a mile out coming right at him. At this distance it was only a speck spewing a trail of smoke. The gun barked out tracers that went wildly in that direction and immediately the missile exploded at an impossibly distant range.
Thomas stared in disbelief. All his foes were silenced. “God… God has been very good to us,” he breathed heavily.
Then for all the dead and dying to hear he yelled, “God had been good to us my friends. We got them. We got them all.” He paused and sobbed, “my dear dead friends.”
In the coming years Thomas Gomez would be elevated as one of the great Free Cuban heroes of the war. The machinist’s mate who courageously took control of his wounded ship and rallied his men to win a battle against insurmountable odds. The man who single handedly destroyed an OSA II class fast attack missile boat and an anti-shipping missile with a machine gun, or so Thomas believed. God had indeed been good to him, but not in the way he had thought.
American submarines passively monitored the battle very closely. They knew very well that the missile boat was destroyed by the Littoral sea mine torpedo. All the mine needed was for the boat to separate itself from the cargo vessel that was keeping it safe. Once its magnetic signature matched its acoustic signature the torpedo was free to engage. By Thomas Gomez’ good fortune the warship was hit by the torpedo before the enemy could return his fire.
The nearly unbelievable shooting down of the missile at such a great distance was another bit of good luck. Months after the war it was determined that the missile probably did not receive its final targeting data and self-destructed after losing contact with its stricken mother ship.
Guantanamo Naval Base, Free Cuban Zone, Cuba
[* October 1st, 2018 “L” Day*]
Press conference 9:20 AM
Joshua Marti turned to the reporter and the glaring camera lights. “Free choice is our political doctrine. It is the foundation upon which we will build and govern this nation. It is simple in its concept and execution. Decisions come easily when you ask yourself ‘what will make people as free as they can possibly be without infringing upon the freedoms of their neighbor.”
“Good people, genuinely committed to this concept of liberty, can disagree where one’s freedoms end and another’s begin but I have great confidence that through brotherly kindness and goodwill all issues can be settled by those representatives who have been duly elected by the people.”
“Let me enlighten you about my personal beliefs. And I admit that they cannot be disproved because they are a matter of faith. I know in my soul that free choice is Christ’s way. It may seem counterintuitive, seeing that so many of our brothers and sisters choose to do wicked or evil things with that free agency, but there it is. Coercion is Satan’s way.”
“And what will you do with all the investments that Spain and other countries have made in Cuba. Will they be confiscated along with all the property of the Communist government?” a reporter asked.
Marti responded, “Our policy on that subject is four words long. Thou shalt not steal. The money investors have spent building hotels and the like will be safeguarded.”
Another reporter raised his hand “Mr. Marti, we have unconfirmed reports that your forces suffered no casualties going through Canemera while reporting Communist KIA’s at 27 just on or near the causeway leading into the city. Are you pleased with your progress?” Joshua responded quickly “I am pleased that this initial push went well. I am most pleased that we have no reported casualties, while I must extend my condolences to the families of the fallen foe.” The reporter perfunctorily blurted out “Excuse me Sir but that sounds a little disingenuous. Surely you are not trying to tell us you’re overly concerned about the enemy dead!” Joshua responded “I don’t think I am overly concerned with enemy dead, although this is not the first time someone has raised that concern. Let me tell you a little something about the enemy dead. When a truly murderous man is killed it is a victory for mankind. In my experience however these truly bad men will hide behind as many of their Soldiers as they can get between themselves and their Maker. I can guarantee that most of these dead are not the murderous monsters that need killing. They are in fact children of a Father whom I love. He grieves over their loss. That said, let there be no mistake about the cause that we are engaged in. It is the cause of liberty, Freedom and democracy. Its author is our God. We will pay any price, make any sacrifice necessary to do his will”.xlv
With that the news conference was over. Joshua walked slightly bent with age. He shuffled out of the rickety WWII era wooden structure and down the dirt road to his briefing with General Zip Petra in the General’s bunker. Standing on the side of the dusty road was a young reporter with a camera slung over his shoulder and a small digital recorder in his hand. As Joshua approached, his two bodyguards eyed the reporter for a second then, losing interest in him, their eyes scanned more distant objects. The young reporter shoved the tape recorder towards Joshua and said, “Do you have any reservations about trying to overthrow the duly elected President of Cuba.” Joshua stopped and looked at the young man with sad but kind eyes. The young man started again but was silenced by Joshua’s upraised finger and a quiet “uhht”. He looked at the young man’s name tag. “Smith. I’ll call you Smithy. Is that alright?”
Joshua reached out and affectionately grabbed the young man’s arm and responded, “I will not respond to every untruth that comes out of your mouth, son. If I did so, soon I would be floundering in a frothy sea of lies. Let me say this, because it is what I would want someone would say to me if I were in your position.” Joshua raised his palm slightly. “In the sacred name of our most Holy Father in Heaven and his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, with love and all sincerity I call upon you to repent. Turn away from the path you are on. Serve the Lord your God and only him.” He paused and placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder and continued, “He loves you, son, and wants you back.” The young man was a product of 18 years of secular education and indoctrination. Never in all that time had the Spirit touched him. He was stunned into silence as he felt the upwelling in his heart. Joshua put his arm around him, sensing the young man’s affectation and said, “and I love you too.” At that moment the feeling in the fatherless young man’s heart grew into a warm fire, a glow. He could feel the love flowing out of this feeble old man and pouring into him. In that moment Smithy felt a bond with this wonderful grandfatherly figure. A bond strong as steel and soft as velvet. Poignant, exhilarating, sad and sweet. Joshua looked him in the eye and said, “Do you feel it?” The young man nodded his head. “That is the Spirit of God bearing witness to you. Now you know for yourself the truthfulness of this work.”
*Guantanamo Naval Base Free Cuban sector *
September 30 2018. L day minus 1, 5:00 PM
In an old wooden barrack that smelled of mildew and rotting wood, Joshua stood before his Generals. The hanging maps were his back drop. Eight of his top military leaders sat before him in folding metal chairs around a long folding table. He continued “…In closing let me say…be careful with the lives of these, our brightest and most beautiful.” He paused and fingered the dust on the table “These noble, courageous hearts,” another pause. “Love them as I love them. We may have thought that child sacrifice was done away with in the Prophet Abraham’s day. I feel much like Abraham going to that sacrificial alter with my most beloved son. I pray that you commanders will be the angel that stays the plunging knife… that saves both Son and Father. To this end I bless you”.
He looked them all over for a minute and continued. “Mine is the sure witness that God lives and Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the World. Of this I testify with all my soul. And now I will leave you with a blessing. Bow your heads.” Joshua tightly closed his eyes and placed his palms together in classic prayer mode. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Ghost I bless you that the hand of God will guide you in all your actions and his Holy Spirit will dwell in your hearts. Amen.” Joshua shuffled to the coat rack where his navy blue priest’s robe hung on a white wire hanger. He slipped it on and zipped it up. He put his gold colored sash around his neck and went out the side door of the old wooden structure. As he exited the building he found himself on the top landing of a stairway about six feet off the ground that overlooked a rare piece of grass now completely blotted out by the crowd of Soldiers gathered there. Members of the Fightin’ Fourth Infantry Division assembled to hear a few words from their leader.
Joshua forced out of his tightening throat, “I am so proud of all of you.” He paused to look them over and felt the greatest poignancy he had ever experienced in His life. ‘Oh God,’ He thought, ‘Our best and bravest. To sacrifice these on the altar of Freedom. The price is so high.’ He continued. “Many of you have personally witnessed the heart-rending results of the loss of liberty. You have lived within the godless evil of communism.”
. . . I say to you with all the soberness I can, liberty and freedom is lost to all future generations of Cubans and now only blood will bring them back. Through those gates lie before you greater sacrifices and more depravations to endure than you have yet known, heavy as your sacrifices and grievous as your depravations of the past have been.”
“We face a war to the death. It is part of a greater, gigantic worldwide struggle. We must face it, enter it, take part in it. In fact, we are all taking part in the struggle, whether we will or not. Upon its final issue, liberty lives or dies.” He paused for a good long while taking in their fearsome painted faces. He only saw the good and righteous boys underneath the paint.
“Be at peace in your hearts, for you are about your Father’s business.”
The only movement among the hundreds of young men were the nodding of some heads or the daubing of a few tears. They understood him completely. The troops were well versed in Brother Marti’s religious idioms.
“Fight! For you are the sword in the hand of the Lord. His power of goodness and righteousness flows through you to cut down the evil ones who would enslave the children of our Father. You shall sweep them from their seats of power and shall lay up in store for yourselves treasures in heaven. Fear not what men can do to you. Fear only falling short in the Service of your God. Love him, serve him, do his will and I promise you that he shall crown you with glorious blessings that you cannot now understand. Humble yourselves before him that his Spirit may enter your heart and you may know his will. Go with God.”
The troops were boisterous in their cheering.
[*120 kilometers west of Communist Cuban Air Base – Santa Clara *]
September 31, 2018 9:21 PM
“Let’s keep our eye on that guy,” Cuco said as he concentrated on the difficult task of flying very fast and very low.
“You got it man, just fly the plane,” Izzy worried. He was not sure at all that the tail end charley or the two MiG’s now to the north and south of them would not pick them up on their radar. The new Chinese radar systems had made the older MiGs a much more formidable weapon. All fears were relative however and right now he just did not want to be cut in half by a palm tree.
“OK we’re through the pickets, now head zero two three.”
“Vector me to the Fulcrum (MiG-29).” Cuco ordered. He knew Izzy was not going to like the order.
“You got him on your screen right… now, eleven o’clock, fifty klicks, clear as day, go get him man.” Izzy tried to sound enthusiastic and supportive. He still felt bad about his criticism of the last dog fight. There was no way to change Cuco’s mind, so might as well go with it. Now that they were behind the searching line of MiGs it wasn’t completely crazy to sneak up on the MiG-29 from behind and hit it. In fact the opportunity was almost too good to pass up. Of course the entire Cuban armada of fighters would swarm them as soon as they were detected but they would manage it somehow. The coming fight would be one for the history books one way or another. The first F-15 to be shot down in an air-to-air battle or the first one to escape from the middle of a furball, out numbered twenty-to-one.
“You wanna jettison the bombs?” Izzy said as he prepared to release the dead weight.
“No,” came Cuco’s response. Oh, thought Izzy, Kook was indeed crazy. How was he planning on breaking off with the pursuing MiG’s long enough to bomb the runways of Santa Clara then break off again to head for the barn? He was going to leave his wing man with no missiles on his racks? What were Pepe and Roman going to do? ‘Well, whatever,’ Izzy thought. He made a conscious decision on how he was going to behave on a mission and to second guess his pilot while trying to fight was something he was not going to do.
“Pepe is eight minutes to bingo fuel. I’m telling him to make a hole for us and bug out,” said Izzy.
“Copy,” responded Cuco.
The F-15 was fifty kilometers behind the MiG when it finally dropped in directly behind it and matched its speed. Now the Eagle was completely invisible to the look down, shoot down Doppler radar carried by the MiG-29. The Fulcrum could not detect a target with a closure rate equal to the aircraft speed. Cuco then pushed his plane past one-thousand miles per hour to get within sure kill shot range.
“Light her up and let her rip,” Cuco said sternly as he pulled up hard to avoid some power lines.
The missile flew low to the ground to avoid being detected by the MiG for as long as possible. It flew to within five kilometers of the MiG before streaking skyward at over Mach four.
“I don’t know what that commie’s doin but he’s not seeing it,” said Izzy. Cuco was busy making a hard turn for Santa Clara and did not even hear his WSO talking. Before Izzy finished his sentence however, the MiG went to full afterburner and headed for the stars. Beads of white hot decoy flares trailed the MiG as its dispenser popped chaff clouds at regular intervals. The burning magnesium spheres could be seen for a hundred kilometers. The LADAR updated the missile as it reached out to the speeding aircraft and blew its tail off. Flames poured out of what was left of the engine exhaust ports and the underside of the plane. The tip of the starboard wing folded under as the port wing seemed to crumple in a blur of smoke and avgas. Izzy could plainly see the MiG pilot’s inexperience. To not see the missile until it was in its pop-up phase then to counter it so poorly. What was the guy doing driving a plane like that? They’ve got to have more MiG-29’s than pilots to fly them, he mentally noted.
*23 kilometers West of Ciego de Avila *
October 2, 2018 L Day plus One
“Put the heavy machine guns back about 1200 meters from the target as high as you can along this ridge and the ridge on the other side of the railroad tracks. On the other side of that hill we will put the mortar team. Their spotters can choose their own place. The two light machine guns 800 meters, again one on each side. Make sure you change out those barrels before they get too hot and warp. I have an idea we will be using them a lot over the next few weeks and you’ve got to keep them in good shape. One sniper team on this side of the tracks near the South end of the kill zone where the train engine should come to a stop and the other one on the opposite side of the tracks. Then the other two sniper teams in the same positions near the north end of the target area.” He paused. “Strike that…you have the basic idea just have the four sniper teams set up where they will, just make sure they tell me where. Infantry, all thirteen of them 300 meters. Five on this side two on that side. I want everyone elevated at least 20 meters from target level.” Automatic weapons tended to kick upward as they were fired. The first round of a burst would be on target but the other rounds might end up anywhere. Usually high. “Grenade launchers in close at 300 meters. Our friend Peter will blow the track by that clump of brush there,” pointing with a stick to the Rail Road track, “when he blows it that’s the signal to initiate the ambush. Once the last car passes the rear charge, that one may be blown to block their retreat. I hear Havana is loading heavy stuff. I don’t know when the train is due. Even they probably won’t know till it’s full. You can bet some of everything will be on it, including lots of troops. When we hit them, hit ‘em hard. They will only surrender if our barrage is fierce enough. We have more ammo than you can use so don’t be lazy about stockpiling it. I can guarantee that when the shooting starts you will wish you had more, no matter how much you have. Everybody in place and ready by first light, that’s zero five hundred hours, you have about 4 hours. Any questions?” The men who gathered shuffled their feet and glanced at each other, saying nothing. Finally one asked “ What’s next?” Corporal Garcia Lopez spoke without hesitation. “We’ll see what we have on the train, then we will decide. At all costs no communist supplies are going to make it East. The general plan is to go 45 kilometers north to seize the bridges across the Zaza river. Who knows, by the time we get there we might have enough support and reinforcements to just keep going north till we hit serious resistance.”
For years Garcia thought of this spot. The long narrow valley through which lay the main railroad heading east. He often thought that if he had the chance to pay back Cuba’s glorious leader this would be a fine spot to do it. With a small force he could choke off the Communist’s supply line to their forces in the East. After he heard about the flier he came to this area to reconnoiter and prepare. This was “Dark Territory.“ Radio communications to and from the train would be impossible with anything less than satellite communications. That was not an option to a third rate, third world government. Havana couldn’t even stock its free clinics with aspirin, much less supply its army with up-to-date anything. This area of radio blackness began about five kilometers north of their position and extended about fifteen kilometers east. Once out of dark territory radio communications were to be immediately re-established with Havana. Any delay reporting in would signal trouble. If all went well they would have about a half an hour before the alarm would spread.
Six years earlier Garcia was told his daughter would need a tracheotomy to live. The local nurse told him she couldn’t do it. The center literally had nothing. Not even the one bar of soap doctors were supposed to receive monthly. She told him the nearest doctor that might be able to help was forty kilometers away. So much for Castro’s boast of the “40,000 doctors” he was fond of counting as an accomplishment of the Revolution. Garcia held his “angel” in his arms like a rag doll on that sweltering cattle truck. It was a nightmarish and desperate journey. They made it to the barren medical center only to find the doctor was out trying to make a living waiting tables at a restaurant across town. No one could or would help. He laid her in the waiting room and went on a futile search for the doctor. He still could hear her pleading with him not to leave her. See the panic in her eyesxlvi. Now, the thought of his daughter dying, scared and alone, filled him with a cold determined hatred. There were other resentments against the Communists, of course, like torture, using your own children as spies against you, the continuous indoctrination, the constant fear of arrest and a general ugly, stinking, filthy type of oppression that permeated everyday life in Cuba. These were nothing compared to the pain he felt as this memory stabbed through him. Even now, six years later, every time he thought of it his hand came up to cover his grief stricken eyes. To the casual observer it looked like he was rubbing his eyebrows, as though he was tired. To those who knew him well thought it to be a nervous tick. However, there was not a soul in the world who knew what passed through his mind while doing it. No sense in trying to break the habit now. He knew he would repeat the ritual till the day he died, which might well be today.
The soldiers looked hypnotically at the outspread map as Garcia nervously rubbed his forehead. “Today they will pay for forcing us to live in this hell hole only to see our children die,” said Garcia. His chin quivered slightly as he hid is eyes behind his hand and rubbed his eyebrows. The young officers around the table looked askance at each other as their commander continued rubbing in silence. Now, they knew.
Free Cuban Armed Forces –
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day.*]
The night sky flashed with the occasional explosion and the staccato sound of machine gun fire.
Two Stryker Armored Personnel carriers stopped one hundred meters behind the forward elements of 1st armored. In the darkness the elite members of Team Warriorxlvii exited the carriers and approached the rear of Segrera’s Tank. Segrera whistled at the menacing group that approached him. “Gunner, here they is,” said Segrera. Man I’m glad there not coming after me, he thought, a friggin nightmare. “You boys do look purdy all duded up,” Segrera chided. Sergeant Oswaldo Paya, Ozzy to his friends grinned up at Segrera. “We heard you need some birds flushed.” He was a young Cuban American fresh from the proving grounds of Ft. Lewis, Washington. He was outfitted like all the other men of his unit. A walking weapons system. It was actually a system of systems. His Kevlar helmet was a sophisticated weapon system in itself. His lighter, stronger Kevlar helmet held a wireless LAN antenna that communicated to the other men in his unit, the Stryker command center and in turn the fire support officer, the artillery fire direction center, the M-1 Abrams tank as well as other units. The helmet-mounted display could be pulled down in front of his right eye. Being so close to the eye, it could display the equivalent of two 17-inch computer monitors. Through this display the soldier could receive computer generated information, digital maps, intelligence information, troop locations and imagery from his gun mounted thermal weapons sight, laser range finder and video camera. It integrated with the Night Sensor Display. He could operate in all types of weather, smoke and at night. The gun-mounted video camera fed the image directly into the helmet mounted display enabled him to view and shoot around a corner without exposing himself to the enemy, beyond his arms and hands. He could communicate easily and clearly with others in the squad by voice, visual and text data. He always knew his precise location, where his buddies were, the mission plans and known enemy positions.
Sergeant Ozzy Paya raised his M-16 based weapon subsystem over his head and scanned the darkness as it fed the image into his helmet-mounted display as Segrera filled him in. His weapon was a M-16 with all the fancy stuff attached to it. Some of the team warrior units had the newer Objective Individual Combat Weapon, the OICW. It was basically the same except it had the capability to fire the computer controlled 20mm air burst rounds. To his way of thinking not having that capability was a minor inconvenience. He could easily mark the target with his laser rangefinder for the mortar, tank or artillery units that supported his team. They could have rounds on their way within fifteen seconds of his marking them. You just had to make sure you were out of the way. That friendly artillery was a heck of a lot bigger than a small 20mm high tech grenade.
Segrera, still standing in his hatch called down to Ozzy. “Enemy positions start just a few hundred meters in front of that M-60 tank there.” As he said it the tank in question boomed to punctuate his sentence “Maybe less.” Ozzy continued to scan with his gun mounted night vision sensor and said, “Our guys aren’t going to shoot us when we walk up on them there are they?” “Naw”, said Segrera with a slight southern drawl. “They’ve been briefed that you’re coming. Heck, I’m more concerned that you’ll scare them to death looking like that. You almost did me.” “The only thing dropping dead tonight are Communists,” Ozzy replied light heartedly. The troops fanned out like lions who owned the night. With the M1A in support, they hiked to the sound of the guns.
*23 kilometers West of Ciego de Avila *
October 2, 2018 L Day plus One
The train slowly lumbered into the long valley. It was an ancient U.S. steam locomotive. While extinct almost everywhere else in the world Cuba still had 258 U.S. and British steam engines, most of them used in the winter to transport cut cane to sugar mills for processing. It was anyone’s guess why they were using them to transport men and equipment. It was followed closely and perhaps being pushed by two diesel engines with a long train behind it. Garcia looked at it a good long time through his binoculars. At least two spotters were on the front of the first engine probably with their own binoculars. The train was cautious for good reason. Before the train left the outskirts of Havana people had stacked junk on the tracks. A crew of soldiers cleared the tracks of debris no less than forty times. Obviously the people of Cuba had their own idea of how to send the Communist troops off with their well wishes. The Soldiers on the train knew it would only get worse as the war wore on. The political officers fumed about it. It did not take much imagination what they would do to those “traitors” who sabotaged the tracks, if they could only get their hands on them.
Time seemed to slow down at the first signal that the train was approaching. Finally the sounds of the train could be heard. The low hum first then the screeing grinding sound of a sick engine. Then the familiar clack clacking sound of the wheels hitting fresh track segments. Garcia felt anxious. His limbs started to feel weak as an overly excited adrenal gland pumped more adrenaline into his system than he needed. He felt as if he were in his dreams in which he lacked the strength to fight the adversaries that his nightmares created. If he could be anywhere he would be in one of those foxholes down the hill from him with his AK 47. Just one of the guys under somebody else’s leadership. That fleeting thought lifted the burden from his shoulders for a moment only to have it envelope him once more like a dark mist. It served only to make him realize how heavy his burden was.
He had the nagging suspicion that he forgot something or something was missing. Of course he could have easily used twice the number of men that he had but it was not that. It was the feeling of impending doom for his men. He knew as soon as he led men into battle, and some ultimately to their deaths, his life would be forfeit. Somewhere in his gut he knew he would not escape the slowly grinding mills of the Gods. As for his men, he hoped better for them.
The foxholes were spread about one hundred meters apart with one man in each. Then there were the two tail end Charlie’s who dug their foxholes 200 meters from the last one. Their job was to cut off any retreating enemy that tried to bug out of the ambush. It would have been much better to have two in each foxhole but this would have to do. They just did not have the men to cover a train that might be a kilometer long. Each man dug his foxhole to accommodate two soldiers so if his position got too busy another soldier whose position was relatively quiet could come to his assistance and help out. Each one had a convenient dirt “shelf “ to hold all the soldier’s rifle magazines. He could change magazines without taking his eyes off his field of fire. As the train engine approached the tail end of Charlie’s position Garcia’s breathing stopped as he inhaled. A few more seconds and the train would be at the point of no return. They could not stop the train in time even if they did spot the foxholes. The end of the train was nowhere in sight as the body of the train rounded a tree covered bend two clicks from his position. The spotters on the engine were plainly visible now. The binoculars were to the sentinels’ eyes looking up to the surrounding mountains. They were not the unsuspecting target. They were wary and alert. Garcia could see more now. Now it seemed that the train was literally crawling with soldiers. Many were on top, some climbing up or down the ladders mounted on the outside of the rail cars. Also visible were the objects that he had both hoped and dreaded were on the train. Tanks. T62’s. Over ten for sure. Now there was only one thing on his mind. Were they manned? The hatches were closed. There were no tank commanders with their torsos sticking up through the hatch. Garcia’s mind was numb at the full implications of this bit of good luck but not too numb to mumble “good.”
The tanks would not be able to fire their main guns, that much was obvious. The recoil would flip them right off the railroad car or if chained down the whole car might tip or derail. The machine gun on each tank could make for a hardened nest, which would have proven costly to silence. The tank crews, of course, were onboard the train but they were crammed in with the rest of the units. The thought of making special accommodations to have them readily at hand to the tanks was considered but it was so far down the priority list that it was quickly lost in all the chaos. Just the act of throwing on the train any and all available units was a Herculean effort for a bureaucracy as top heavy and convoluted as the Cuban one was. The train seemed to pick up speed slowly as it straightened itself out on the long valley floor. Then from the front of the train a flare streaked skyward trailing white smoke, slowing and beginning its descent forming an angry red arch. The train was twenty meters from crossing the outer perimeter of the ambush zone. A sentry riding on the engine spotted fresh dirt from the first foxhole but nothing else. He himself was not too concerned but it would please his sergeant to know he was on the ball. He shouted up to the engineer “Go, Go!!” The engineer popped his head out of the window of the engine to assess the situation. His only concern was to make sure there was clear track ahead. He would pour it on, as best he could with this old lumbering behemoth. The lack of panic or even real concern in the voice of the sentry was infectious. The flare was not followed up with warning shots from his AK 47 so was treated by the other guards throughout the train with interested curiosity. They were anxious to get a shot at the troublesome track vandals and this was clearly all the trouble they expected.
Garcia saw the flare go up. His hands gripped on the binoculars as his jaw tightened.” Come on Meeho, don’t panic,” he thought to himself. If the train stopped now half of the train would lay outside the kill zone. The last thing they needed was the tail end of Charlie’s to open up on the train prematurely. They didn’t. The guards riding high on the train saw nothing amiss, of course they were looking for running troublemakers. The relief Garcia felt at the train continuing onward came over him as fast as his anxiety at seeing the red flare. “Thank you Lord,” he whispered. With disaster narrowly averted Garcia’s confidence in the ambush soared.
Free Cuban Armed Forces-
North invasion force, Guantanamo Cuba October 1, 2018.
“L” Day or Liberation Day. 9:32 PM
Downtown Guantanamo City
Ozzy brought up on his display the overview of the city which had the location of all friendly units. He then focused in on his engagement area called Kansas Alpha. The city was superimposed with a map of the United States. Each area was given the name of the state that it corresponded with. The Communists had been pushed out of half of the city from the long days fighting. Javalina, haavee for short, ducked down behind the cinder block wall and slid next to Ozzy. He was so nicknamed because he was one of a two-man team in charge of the Javelinxlviii anti-armor missile he was entrusted to carry. “Several enemy troops in the corner building. 11 o’clock, two blocks over. RPG’s, machine gun emplacement, at least one guy with night vision.” Javalina said. “Do we have a tank in direct line of sight?” Segrera fingered the circular switch mounted on the side of his rifle to toggle through the menu items on his computer. “Dubya will have to redeploy.” “No,” responded Javalina, “That will scare them off. Pop up and laze the corner of the South West building at the intersection. Don’t look for them. Just mark it fast. I don’t think they know we’re here. The artillery trajectory will be too shallow. We need to lob in some mortars.” Ozzy toggled his switch again to bring up the artillery support screen. Within two seconds a mortar battery was assigned the mission and instructed to prepare for it. Ozzy lifted his laser-mounted rifle above the height of the wall and lased the target. Before he could bring it down again the coordinates had been sent to the fire direction center and on to the mortar teams. The mortars adjusted their aim and three tubes fired for effect. Ozzy and Haavee could hear the thunk, thunk, thunk of the distant mortar tubes firing in rapid succession. The slowest part of the whole exercise was the flight time. Not much could be done about that. For 20 long seconds the mortar rounds arched nearly a mile in the sky then plummeted on top of the target”. Five seconds to impact,” said Ozzy as he raised his rifle above the wall to view the target and assess the accuracy.
One third of the shells utilized a delayed fuse, plunging through the roof of the buildings before exploding inside. One third detonated upon contact and the last third exploded well above the ground to effectively disperse their deadly shrapnel over a wide area.
Seeing the first rounds land Ozzy quickly slid down the wall and hugged the ground but not fast enough. Even as the ground beneath them leapt and shocked, Ozzy could feel his finger sting. He thought he might have smashed it in his drop for cover. “Look at my finger. The left ring finger. Is it hit?” Haavee, with his standard night vision could actually see better up close than Ozzy could. “Woa, the ceramic plate is totally whacked dude … but I don’t see no blood. I don’t think it penetrated.” The most exposed area of a Team warrior was his hands and wrists. As they pointed, viewed from, and fired their guns from around cover it was found that shrapnel, flying debris from bullet riddled walls and the bullets themselves posed a vulnerability that was overcome by Special gloves, wrist and forearm protection. This protection made from a lightweight Kevlar with trauma plates imbedded in them. The plates varied in size from the form fitted ones around the forearm down to the tiny plates that covered each segment of the fingers.
“Left twenty meters, drop ten,” Ozzy yelled into his cupped hands that cradled his helmet-mounted microphone.
“On the way,” came the reply, “you better hunker down sir, its coming in danger close”.
Tell me about it thought Ozzy. “I copy”. Ozzy yelled, “Next salvo coming in twenty seconds, get down, that stuff is dangerous and get ready to go.” Ozzy could see on his helmet-mounted screen the arcs of the mortar rounds lobbing onto the target. He could see that there would be a slight lull of ten seconds between the main salvo and the last three shells. During that slight pause Ozzy quickly put his gun around the corner and viewed the flattened building. “That’s it, Boitel and Carrion, three more mortar rounds and you guys go, everyone else covers them. The second the last round exploded the team was on the move. Boitel ran across the street to find cover in a doorway. Carrion quickly followed. Boitel and Carrion leapfrogged up the street to the target. The M1- A could be plainly heard roaring up closer in support but he could not see it and Boitel could not be bothered to toggle through the screens to find its location.
“Ozzy to Boitel, don’t step into that street. I see multiple targets in that street just west of the target.” Thanks to the drone with an infrared camera flying above them in the darkness, the situation screen displayed the street peppered with ghostly green images running to and from the collapsed building. “The tank is coming up. He’s gonna hit em with machine guns. No grenades or main gun repeat no grenades or main gun. Our guy is west of you on that street.” Ozzy said for the benefit of the tank listening in. “Copy that,” replied the tank commander Segrera. Boitel sidled up to the corner of the street and pointed his gun system around the corner to take a look down the street. The gun mounted infrared sight showed numerous enemy targets running or stumbling zombie like or lying on their backs calling for help as many others were busy redeploying to new defensive positions. “Tell the tank to hold back. I’ve got these guys,” Boitel said quietly into his helmet-mounted microphone. Boitel reached down to his thigh pocket and pulled out his twelve-inch flash suppressor/silencer and quickly attached it to the end of his M16. He swung the gun around the corner and carefully viewed the situation. He looked for anyone with night vision equipment lurking in cover. He could see none. They obviously had no idea he was there. He then saw a communist soldier with night vision in the street directing other soldiers. Boitel brought him down with one shot to the head, trying to smash those goggles as well. His flash suppressor was big and awkward and cumbersome but there was absolutely no visible flash to give away his position and it had the added benefit of silencing the noise from the muzzle blast. The sonic crack of the bullet still made plenty of noise as it broke the sound barrier on its way to the target but it was all but impossible to determine which direction the bullet came from. Boitel switched to the much clearer night vision mode. Another careful scan of the area revealed a machine gun emplacement two hundred meters down the street. Someone was bobbing his head up and down like a prairie dog next to the machine gun holding a large pair of binocular type lenses to his eyes. In a flash of fear he realized that the prairie dog was looking in his direction. It instantly dawned on him that he was not exposed; only his gun and hands were being pointed around the corner. The helmet-mounted display was especially disorienting to those who felt so comfortable with it that they forgot they were looking through it. Boitel hit the range finder button on his gun with his trigger finger and 224 meters appeared on his gun sight. The center of the recticicle adjusted automatically as he rested it squarely on the prairie dogs chest. Boitel’s gun cracked and the prairie dog dropped hard flinging the glasses to his left. The gunner manning the large caliber machine gun next to the prairie dog lit up the scene with a surrealistic staccato strobe light but not in Boitel’s direction. The gunner was shooting due south and he was due east. The communists, seeing the fire from the machine gun assumed the enemy was approaching from the southwest. They had no idea the enemy was already in their midst. As they took cover many were exposed to Boitel’s deadly accurate fire. A crouched man running took Boitel’s bullet in the chest but kept running only to fall in mid stride twenty meters away. Boitel was joined by Carrion who had his flash suppressor in place. The shootin gallery was officially open now as eight more communists fell to their guns. “Redeploy” came the order from their squad commander. Ozzy had been seeing everything Boitel and Carrion had seen through their gun video cameras, infrared and night vision system. His job was to keep that knucklehead Boitel alive and made sure he didn’t get Carrion killed at the same time. Boitel was bound and determined to break three hundred kills in this war and have his name in every history book in Cuba for the next hundred years. Ozzy would have preferred to pull back and let arty rain down on those targets but he did not micromanage. He would let his guys in the forward position fight it as they saw fit, within reason. But he was not about to wait around worrying like a mother hen. It was time to wade in amongst the enemy and show them what they could do. “OK move forward” Ozzy told his men.
Boitel redeployed but not by very much. Within twenty seconds the two were hammering away at the communist troops again with a mechanical skill. They were dropping them with regularity that unnerved them both. Firefights were not supposed to be this way. Especially with the elite Eastern Army, The Brigade of the Border (Brigada de la Frontera). This brigade started out with volunteers and were reinforced with the most elite units on the Island. Even the Special Troops that made up Castro’s own security force were here in Guantanamo. What was also suspected of being here was a company of women that guarded the border perimeter which unnerved the young FCAF soldiers.
Boitel slammed another magazine into his M16 and said into his microphone to no one in particular and of course to everyone in particular, “That’s got to be twenty six.” Carrion was still knockin em down and did not respond. “They still don’t know where we are. We’re gonna get to the second story of this building, Boitel to Ozzy, redeploying to second story, request support.”
“Rodger that,” responded Ozzy. “We’re coming in behind you”.
Boitel and Carrion ran the twenty yards to the corner building directly across from the flattened target. Boitel knew the first story was clear because all the windows and blinds were blown out and could see the interior clearly in the darkness. The upstairs was the thing he was not too sure about. He wished that one of the Packbot teams were with him. The Packbot was a small, flattened tracked robot. It would climb these stairs and look around the second story and find any hiding enemy waiting in ambush. The tough little thing could be thrown out of a second story window and hit the ground speeding to its target or to cover. It proved itself extremely valuable in the caves of Afghanistan as well as the urban fighting in Iraq. “We’ll just have to do it the old fashioned way.” They quickly cleared the second story in the classic cover and clear procedure.
“Ozzy to Boitel, picking up a lot of movement to your North and West.” Boitel approached the blown out second story windows. “Oh blank,” he whispered. He grabbed Carrion and pushed him towards the window “shoot ‘em!” He toggled to his fire support screen and set up a fire mission. He started to laze targets. “Boitel to Ozzy, they’re on the move and headin’ our way. The whole stinkin’ line is on the move. I count hundreds,” Request you bring up the guys and take defensive positions around me. I’m calling in arty on positions west of us. Bring up that tank.”
Boitel could now hear the friendly artillery pounding in the distance.
From the darkness of that second story the two men had all they could handle just fighting off enemy directly to their front. They could not let them cross the street and occupy the first floor of their building before their team could get there. With mechanical precision they put rounds into the enemy who were firing their weapons blindly in the darkness. One round to the torso with anything over a ninety percentile hit probability and they moved on to the next target whether they dropped or not. One thing that irked the troops no end was the low knock down power of the .223 caliber M16. It was just as deadly as any other rifle but sometimes it just did not drop the target instantly like the shock power of a .308.
The artillery fell uncomfortably close as the team took up positions in and around ‘Boitel’s building’ as it came to be known.
“Ozzy to Boitel, we’re downstairs and taking up positions.”
The battle for ‘Boitel’s Building’ now became a ferocious firefight. The Communists now had a general idea where the unseen enemy was and some went fully automatic, spraying the building with their AK47’s. They were quickly suppressed with counter fire from the team warrior unit who could plainly see their muzzle flashes even without their night or thermal vision. Inside the building a thunderous explosion threw Ozzy to the ground. Boards, plaster and dust from the ceiling above lay on top of him. He slowly got to his knees in the choking pall. Ten feet away Boitel also struggled to get up.
“Where’d you come from?” Ozzy coughed out.
Boitel pointed to the hole in the ceiling above him. “Took the elevator.”
Carrion was still on the second story looking down through the hole at Boitel “you ok?”
“Oh I do’no, we’ll see,” he said.
Over the Com Net “RPG launch position one fifty meters northeast. Marking now.”
Ozzy jumped in, “plaster the area, we’re going to move into that direction, over.”
Ozzy turned to Boitel “Love the place you picked out for us, Boitel.”
“I remodeled it just for you Sarge.”
“Your on mike gentlemen,” crackled the fire control officer back in his command vehicle. “Cut the chatter.”
“Medic,” yelled Boitel. The call was passed down the line.
*23 kilometers West of Ciego de Avila *
October 2, 2018 L Day plus One
One half mile in front of the train a pillar of white grayish smoke exploded skyward. Strangely it was silent for the first couple seconds. In that moment the rebels could see the shock wave speed outward to rend the humid air, trees and plants. The sound of the explosion was unbelievably loud. Corporal Lopez knew immediately that his men used about 30 times as much as was needed to do the job. ‘I just hope they didn’t hear it all the way back in Havana,’ he thought. All guns now opened up as the train started to break hard. Communists started to jump off the still swiftly moving train. They tumbled end over end or hit hard sprawling into the gravel. Some lay prone on the rising grade near the track ready to return fire at the enemy they thought was only on the other side. They were plainly visible to the rebel riflemen on their side of the tracks as they opened fire and picked them off as easily as the silhouetted targets they used for target practice. As the men started to pour out of the front and back of a train car the machine guns concentrated on those areas. Bodies piled up making it more difficult for yet more men to make it out of the car without being pushed and subsequently tripping over the bodies of their comrades. The communists who survived the jump from the train relatively uninjured and who had loaded weapons with them were few in number. Yet the prevailing doctrine to counter an ambush was to charge into it and charge into it they did. The rebels now had a strategy of their own to implement. If you want to kill as many of the enemy as you can you shoot the attacker that is farthest away from you first. Then the next furthest and so on until you kill the closest enemy last. The leader of the assault will not see all the rest of his comrades behind him fall and is less likely to take cover or retreat until it is too late. The benefit to this is that you can bag the entire assault team in one rush. This strategy apparently went out the window when the rebels, seeing the tremendous numbers of soldiers on the train and suddenly feeling very alone in their fox holes, hit the lead charging soldiers hard in an attempt to turn back the counter attack. As the communist vanguard fell to the onslaught of the still hidden rebel AK-47’S it did have the desired paralyzing effect on the remaining troops. They found it to be a much better idea to find cover and stay low. The train was still moving at 20 mph and showed little signs of slowing despite the grinding screeing of the steel wheels on steel track.
Many of the soldiers on the train now turned their attention to a machine gun emplacement over one thousand meters away high on a ridge that was peppering the train. The only reason they could see the machine gun at all was the fact that it was using tracer ammunition. It was shooting at the train with relative impunity since it was far out of communists’ rifle range. The firing was non-stop. It was not the bursts of fire that most machine gunners use but a steady continuous stream that seemed like it would never end. The firing did stop however when the barrel grew a dull red hot. The machine gunner unlatched the feed tray on top of the gun, flipped it forward and exposed the upper receiver. He grabbed the barrel handle. With a quick twist he wrenched out the hot and smoking barrel and threw it onto the ground. It made a sizzling sound as it lay on the grass making it steam. “Son of a blank,” muttered the gunner’s mate, speaking of the hot barrel. “Put it on the tray.” Both knowing the difficulties they were going to have cleaning the outside of the barrel with debris burned onto it. His suggestion went ignored. The gunner’s mate, who happened to be the gunner’s childhood friend and distant relative had the next ammo belt already in the gun as soon as the new barrel was slammed into place. The whole procedure took just under ten seconds. They worked fast and efficiently as a team. They were ‘dialed in.’ The firing resumed with the familiar bursts of fire now directed at the juicy and irresistible targets that the train cars packed with the communist soldiers made. When the bullets hit, it found nearly all onboard either firing out the window or trying to get to the crowded windows to fire or reloading their magazines by putting one cartridge at time in their thirty round clips. The car was so full that if a bullet flew through the car it could not miss hitting somebody. The first machine gun round went cleanly through the window and hit the upper right arm of a soldier firing out the window. His arm went limp falling to his side. It felt like it was about to fall off when the man dropped his rifle and instinctively grabbed the stricken arm by the elbow and held it tight to his body. The round continued on its destructive path traveling through the right side of another man standing directly behind the first blowing a hole through his abdomen, exited through his back and finally lodged in the wood shelf under the window in the far side of the car. At six hundred and fifty rounds per minute this tale of horror repeated ten times per second. The next two bullets double tapped a man standing next to the first, dropping him like a sack of sugar. For the first couple seconds the soldiers continued to fire but crouching down as the fire swept through them like a scythe. It happened so fast no yelling or grunts of hit men were heard, just the sound of the bullets and their impacts. After four seconds most of the men now lay prone on the floor of the car but the carnage continued.
*23 kilometers West of Ciego de Avila *
October 2, 2018 L Day plus One
As the bullets furiously peppered the train cars the first of the large mortars fired by the rebels hit just north of the tracks near the front of the train. The next rounds safely straddled the tracks and were laid on to make sure no enemy pushed through the ambush zone. He just did not have enough troops to cover the front. As the communists scrambled out of the railroad cars a group of about forty surged away from the tracks to the south. They must have perceived that there was less fire from that direction. The mortar fire jumped in front of the hard charging Communists.
Then it walked in slowly on the troops like giant exploding footfalls. The soldiers fell back into thicker foliage near the tracks but there was no escaping the falling rounds. Twelve T-62 tanks stately rested on their flat cars. The hatches remained closed, the tanks lifeless. The train had come to rest close to the blown track. Putting the T-62’s well within the firing range of the rebel riflemen. As the surviving tank crews scrambled toward their tanks they found themselves under the murderous fire of the rebel infantry and their machine guns. One tanker managed to climb a tank and open its hatch before succumbing to the onslaught but that was as close as they got. The bodies piled up outside of the railroad car exits as though they would not stop. Some of the Communist soldiers had had enough. Out through a window of one of the middle cars someone started to wave an olive drab tee shirt stuck on the end of a metal tube. The fire switched to the other targets till they too started waving flags. The ambush grew in intensity, ebbed away, then resumed several times throughout the twenty minutes that followed.
This was followed by still more waving flags till the only threat that remained were two pockets of communists that made it to cover. The rebels closed in on the remaining Communists. They stubbornly resisted for two long hours till the mortars and grenade launchers annihilated them. As the rebels approached what was left of them they found a wounded soldier flat on his back with what looked like a shirt sleeve attached to the end of his rifle sticking into the air. The epaulets gave him away as a political officer of the Territorial Militia. Nearby was his Makarov 9mm handgun. Among the thirty six dead and wounded they found that three had been executed by a handgun bullet to the back of the head.
Guantanamo Naval Base, Free Cuba Sector May 5, 2018 Six months before L-Day
The press gathered around the high tech weapon. It was a futuristic looking machinegun set on a tripod. A Soldier was sitting flat on his butt with his legs draped over the legs of the tripod. He held the gun handles as he peered through a view finder and acquired the target some 300 meters away. The uniformed spokesman began, “This is the XM307[* *]Advanced Crew Served Weapon or ACSWxlix. “This machine gun is made up of a new array of technology making its way onto the battlefield.”
“This is completely new and this weapon will enter widespread service by in the U.S. Army in 2009.”
“The XM307 is a radical advancement on current machine guns. The idea behind the XM307 was to develop a lightweight system that was two man portable but still gives you the fire power of a heavy machine gun such as the M2 50. caliber heavy machine gun or the mark 19, 40mm grenade machine gun. This system is 44 pounds. When it’s broken down it is very easy for 2 men to carry it through the battlefield. Compared to the Vietnam and Gulf War era machine guns that it will replace, the XM307 is a state of the art user friendly weapon. On average it is one quarter the weight of its predecessors. And has firepower ten times as deadly as the earlier guns. The system utilizes a 31 round box magazine that can be fed from either side of the gun. There’s an electronic fire control with a laser range finder, it has infrared capability and can see at night or through smoke and dust. The XM307 can fire 250 rounds of 25 mm rounds per minute. In order to utilize the system the gunner looks through the sight and acquires the target he then lazes to the target and gets a range. Once the target’s range has been established the gun’s internal computer takes over. It instantly calculates what is called a ballistic solution using information about wind and weather conditions acquired by electronic sensors the computer works out exactly where the gun should be pointing. The gunner re-elevates once he gets his adjusted aim points and fires. The round goes out and you get pinpoint airbursts at the target. In combat conditions targets are often difficult or impossible to see especially when they are moving. The advanced laser tracking system of the XM307 will now give the soldier an enormous advantage on the battlefield. All he has to do is push a button. Unlike previous machine guns one of the XM307’s most potent features is it’s so called ‘smart ammunition.’ These can be pre programmed to burst in the air above the target. This fuse is electronically programmable it has an onboard electronic processor which tells the round when to burst. Once the guns laser establishes the range of the target the computer tells the ammunition’s internal microprocessor exactly how far to go before exploding. Targets can be as far as two thousand meters – about one and a half miles away. “With this round the idea is to airburst the round several feet above the target making use of all the fragments coming off of that round thus improving the probability of killing that target. We can attack targets that are hiding behind sandbags, behind walls where you cannot do that with heavy machine gun that’s firing bullets.”
“The XM307 is a remarkable improvement on the machine guns that it will replace.”
“The fifty caliber M2 machine gun weighs about 170 pounds with its tripod and ammunition. It requires sandbags for firing and it requires about 14 cans of ammunition to get the same lethality we get from one can of ammunition of the XM307. The Mark 19 40mm grenade machine gun is an indirect fire weapon and also requires sandbags for firing and requires 8 cans of ammunition from the 40 mm family to equal the lethality that you get from one can of ammunition from the XM307”. He walked over to the Soldier manning the gun and lightly touched the top of the gun. “This is the XM307. It requires no sandbags for firing. It sits still while firing. Please gather around the monitor right behind you to see the target. The rounds will go through the window and explode in mid air. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work anyway,” he said with a smile. He then touched the Soldier on the shoulder and said, “OK Sergeant.” The Soldier fired a 3 round burst at the target. It was a cinder block wall with a window space in the middle of it. Behind the wall hidden from view were three life size dummies in full combat gear. Two sandbag walls lined the perimeter of the ‘room’. A video camera recorded the scene and projected the image on a TV monitor. It showed three angry dark puffs of smoke exploding at shoulder height in the middle of the dummies. Plainly visible was the shrapnel ripping through the dummy’s clothing, sandbags and raising a shock of dust from the ground.
“And if all this were not enough, when you run out of this specialized ammunition, the XM307 machine gun can be converted in the field to a fifty caliber machine gun in under two minutes. Fifty cal ammo is cheap and available.”
The uniformed spokesman walked over to a portable table and picked up a very military looking piece of equipment and continued. “Developed in tandem with the XM307 is the Selectable Assault Battle Rifle or SABRl . You will notice that its biggest advantage is that it has a much better acronym that its machine gun counterpart -- pronounced Saber. The American military’s unfortunate designation for this beautiful weapon is the M29. This futuristic infantry weapon has many features similar to the XM307 but this gun has an added advantage. It is really two guns in one. It can fire two completely different rounds of ammunition from two separate barrels. The SABR fires 20mm air bursting rounds as well as the standard 5.56mm NATO round. The 20mm has the same type of computer control as you have seen on the XM307 machine gun. The two sections can be separated, turning it into the world’s lightest fully automatic rifle. These weapons are only two of the dozens of different, advanced weapons systems that we could employ that the Communists can’t. From our F-15’s to our M1A Abrams tanks to our team warrior units and more than I can name, Castro would be well advised to stop saber rattling and let us live in peace.
The Miami Herald Oct 1st, 2018
“The elderly and enigmatic leader of the Free Cubans… Joshua Marti is seems to be deeply rooted in his own mix of Catholicism and anti-communism. He is a ferocious opponent of Castro and Communism worldwide… Speaking before a group of financial backers May 20th 2018 he said,
“I want it clear that I am not speaking on behalf of God on any subject. To my knowledge, He has not given me his authority to do so. But it is my personal opinion that our Heavenly Father would not forever exclude from his presence a son or daughter who has sacrificed their lives in the fight against the forces of Evil. Let me make an absolute declaration so there will be no confusion on this matter. The fight against Communism is a very real part of every man’s duty. It is the fight against slavery, immorality, atheism, terrorism, cruelty, barbarism, deceit and the destruction of human life through a kind of tyranny unsurpassed by anything in human history. Here is a struggle against the evil, satanical priestcraft of Lucifer.”
In November 2017 he spoke to a large group of newly recruited members of the Free Cuban Armed Forces and was quoted by the Miami Herald as saying,
“I must tell you quite plainly that the benefits of liberty for ourselves will probably not equal the sacrifice we must endure to secure this liberty. It is for others that we bear this burden. For our wives and children, their children and future generations. 200 years from now good and righteous Cubans will study about this turning point and will come to endear us for the sacrifices we will have made.”
At the start of the refugee rescue operations on 6/23/07 Mr. Marti wrote:
“We must be prepared to accept the fact that this struggle will be long and difficult but the end is sure. There will be a reward for all those who have borne such heartache and sorrow. The day will dawn on a world where all of the children of God will live in liberty under governments who hold those liberties sacred. Freedom will cleanse the earth like a wild fire sweeping despots from their seats of power.”
About his personal beliefs as taken from an internal memo to his staff around May 2017 Mr. Marti states: “ … I state for you these things with no supporting arguments simply that you may better know the policies I want implemented… There is a God. God wants us to be free. Free to choose our own path in all things. That is his plan. Satan wants to control and coerce. That is his plan. All of Gods children should be as free as is possible while still maintaining the rights & safety of all. Great and unforeseen blessings will be ours if we follow God’s plan…We are all too aware of what awaits our brothers and sisters in Cuba if despotism continues.”
June 12, 2018 Guantanamo, Free Cuban Sector, Mr. Marti gave an extended sermon to the troops. We excerpt from his book -- The Sermons and Sayings of Joshua Marti,”
… The struggle that we are now engaged is but a continuation of another war that has gone on since before the world was created and will continue for some time yet to come. John the Revelator speaks of that struggle: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, “And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:7-9)
“That war in heaven has continued here on Earth and has never stopped. It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion. Satan and his allies have used every stratagem in this intense and bitter conflict. They rely heavily on lying and deceit. They’ve employed fame, money and wealth. They’ve murdered, tortured and instilled fear to thwart God’s plan for his children. We struggle against these forces even within our own ranks. Those among us who would destroy faith, to belittle, to demean, to bear false witness, to tempt and induce our soldiers into practices inconsistent with the teachings and commandments of God.
On this earth the struggle began when Cain slew Abel. Many other examples are found in the Old Testament.
It culminated in the greatest evil of all when it was given voice in the vile accusations against Jesus the Christ who taught the gospel of peace, who healed the sick and gave all people hope and the love of God. Evil men, motivated by that evil power tortured our Savior, nailed him to a cross, mocked and murdered him. Being the Son of God, he overcame death and through his atoning sacrifice brought salvation from death to all men.
This struggle goes on. It is only the battlefield that has changed. The principles we fight for remain the same. We are the army of the Lord, he is at the head of it. We must be united behind him. If we are not, we will not be victorious. We cannot have division within our ranks and expect victory. We cannot have disloyalty to our superiors and expect unity.
We cannot be unclean and expect the strength we need from heaven. You cannot be involved in immoral activity. You men, you cannot be unfaithful or untrue to your wives or to your families (even though your separation is long and difficult) and be valiant warriors in this contest to bring freedom to all God’s children. You should not drink alcohol or take drugs that will weaken your mind, spirit and body. You cannot be dishonest or unethical in your personal affairs without tarnishing your spiritual armor.
In this army there must be commitment. There must be devotion. We are engaged in a great eternal struggle that will save the souls and lives of the sons and daughters of God. The Lord requires it of us and there is nothing the Lord has asked of us that in faith we cannot accomplish
As I look at your young faces I think of the children of Israel when they fled Egypt. They camped beside the Red Sea. Looking back, they saw Pharaoh and his armies coming to destroy them. Fear gripped their hearts. With the armies behind them and the sea before them they cried out in terror. “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. “And the Lord said unto Moses, … speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Ex. 14:13-15; italics added). The sea parted, and the children of Israel went forward to their salvation. The Egyptians followed to their own destruction.” We will go forward trusting in the Lord. We have been commanded: Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17).
The war goes on. It is waged across the world over the issues of agency and compulsion… It is waged within our own ranks and in our own lives, day in and day out; it is waged over questions of loyalty and fidelity, of obedience and integrity. We are all involved in it. We will win. The future never looked brighter. God bless us, my beloved brothers, in the war that is so clearly laid out before us. May we be faithful. May we be valiant. May we have the courage to be true to the trust God has placed in each of us. May we be unafraid. “For [to quote the words of Paul to Timothy] God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:7-8)
Mr. Marti speaking to prospective Cuban American recruits in Miami on March 16th, 2017 was quoted: “We have all been freeloaders eating the fruits of liberty from trees planted by other men that went before us. They paid in blood and treasure for the freedoms you now enjoy. Now, destiny is calling you to secure these precious things not for yourselves, but for generations of Cubans yet unborn. Join us in this cause. I promise you that if you ask your God in prayer he will impress upon you that it is the right thing for you to do. (James 1:5, 6). As members of the Cuban American Battalion, there are no minimum time requirements for your service. You may choose one or two year enlistments or you may choose no restrictions on your time at all. You would be free to come and go as you please”….
And continued “ The new Free Cuban Government not only will pay the United States back for all expenses it incurs on behalf of our fight for freedom but she will gain a friend and ally in the Roman sense. Its wars for freedom and security around the world will be our wars. Our young men will die beside their young men in the cause for liberty, democracy and security in the world. It is not just as repayment for their help in our time of need but because we share the same values.”
End of Chapter One
Cuba Chapter 2
[* F-15E aircraft, Freedom One*]
157km West of Santa Clara Military Base,
A Communist Cuban Air Base
September 30, 2018 9:21 PM
Just as Izzy had feared, shooting down the advanced Fulcrum fighter was the easy part. It was as though they had kicked a hornet’s nest. The doomed Fulcrum pilot had enough presence of mind to relate that the missile came from the east, from behind him. The line of searching MiG’s broke up and each raced to the area they thought the unseen enemy might be. The MiG’s patrolling in and around Santa Clara came charging out of their patrol areas like bulls into a bullring eager for a fight.
“Panhandle to Freedom one, head three-twenty degrees,” said the AWACS plane, trying to steer them away from the MiGs and the powerful ground based radar installations. The searching MiG’s were like security guards in a huge dark warehouse using their flashlights (radars) to look for a hidden burglar. The burglar can plainly see the guards and quietly evade their search. All that could change quickly however if the burglar gives himself away by making a sound or exposes himself to a flood light (ground based radar installation). The F-15 had such sophisticated radar detection equipment that the AWACS told them very few things that they did not figure out themselves. The aging Phantom F-4 now going by the call sign of Freedom Two was a different story. They were grateful to have all the help they could get to keep that bird alive tonight.
[*73 kilometers west of Communist Cuban Air Base-Santa Clara *]
September 30, 2018 9:21 PM
[* Freedom Two- Phantom-4, F-4 or Wild Weasel *]
The area around Santa Clara was defended by radar installations, numerous antiaircraft batteries and a few low-and-medium-altitude-capable mobile surface-to-air missile systems. By now there would be roving patrols of man-portable antiaircraft missiles ready and in place.
“Alright Pepe, time for plan B. We’re gonna try to hit one site going in to the IPli (initial point) then one more site on the egress.”
The AWACS operator saw Freedom One and Two split up and was careful to track the corridor that Pepe and Roman were obviously clearing for Cuco’s bombing run. The Wild Weasel would go around some SAM sites and hit others to create a path that would at least be free of the radar guided missile threat.
In the WSO seat (back seat) of the F-4 Phantom, Roman Aceituno was busily punching the cockpit display’s buttons and speaking computer commands. Both his screen and the pilot’s screen had large inverted cones showing the areas covered by enemy radar. If they kept out of those cones they should go undetected.
Roman started barking orders at his boss in the driver’s seat. “Pepe, Go COLA (low) between these two SA-2 sites. We’ve got a SA-6 lii search radar just six kilometers west of the IP. That is a must hit. Freedom One’s egress point is going to be to the northeast. We will hit an SA-3 site located there with our last missile. That’s about all we can do.”
“Yeah, and the last thing we do,” mumbled Pepe.
Both aviators knew the unspoken facts that would probably kill them in the next few minutes. They felt confident that they could survive the radar guided missiles. That is what the Wild Weasel was designed to do. The shoulder fired heat seeking missiles were a threat a gambling man could take even money on. But once they popped up to fire their HARM missile at the first SAM site, they would be acquired by at least three radar installations. Every fighter in the area would be vectored in to kill the aging Phantom.
Pepe’s mind now put many other alternatives in front of him in the place of him dying this night. ‘We could skirt Santa Clara all together and just go home. Its not like they will fire me, or even dock my pay,’ he thought. ‘I’d say that we just couldn’t make it, our wing man was gone, there are twenty plus planes and…Expletive.’ His hopeful thoughts were interrupted by the brick wall called duty. He knew there was no way around the fact that he was here and was going to do his duty no matter what impulses the reptilian survivalist part of his brain came up with. No small task that. For over three and a half billion years that instinct to survive had kept Pepe’s ancestors alive long enough to at least reproduce and pass on their genes. Those predecessors survived countless generations of desperate wars and inter clan intrigues. They survived a billion dark and fearful nights as hunted human creatures.
Millions of years before that, those very same antecedents were smaller than a mouse and larger than a horse. They swung in the trees and lived below ground and everywhere in between. They survived the dominating dinosaurs and the amphibious monsters before them. They survived the Silurian seas and billions of years as life forms too small to see with your naked eye. Pepe’s illustrious line of life would end tonight. It would end because the Spirit that inhabited that body, so carefully crafted over billions of years, willed it to be so. Because the Father of that Spirit willed it to be so.
The Phantom carefully slid beneath and between the first two interlocking radar cones fighting hard not to pop up too high to get additional clearance over the odd power line and small rolling hill crests on the relatively flat landscape.
“Center up the bug to our new IP, you’re in COLA mode now, minimum safe altitude is on the barber pole,” the information continued uninterrupted from Roman.
He continued “We’ll do a twenty second pop up (target acquisition maneuver) … alright …we’re forty seconds to pop up. It will take the first two bypassed SAM sites at least thirty seconds to acquire us, and by that time we’ll be a few seconds out of their detection range and within a minute of flying out of lethal range.”
‘A few seconds’ sounded like wishful thinking to Pepe.
Pepe interjected, “It’s the one we’re attacking that worries me. Just make sure it’s a clean shot.”
“I’ll make the shot, you just stay in the (Doppler) notch,liii” Roman said defensively.
Pepe knew he was going fast by the way the cattle were peacefully standing around, not even looking up as the plane approached them. It was going to have to be an awfully fast HARM shot at this SAM site if they were going to make it to their second and last target.
“That signal is pretty strong now,” claimed Pepe.
Roman responded “Relax, the inversion layer is channeling the signal over the horizon. Just a few more seconds.”
“Here we go, on my count, three, two, one, go,” Roman counted.
The Phantom-4 Wild Weasel shot into the sky. Almost immediately the threat indicator burned red accompanied by a piercing deedle-deedle-deedle sound.
“Warning, SA-6 tracking…,” chimed in the female computer voice.
Roman’s jaw tightened as he knew what Pepe was thinking. He had forgotten to shut off what they affectionately referred to as the ‘Bitching Betty.’ With a quick punch of a button adjacent to one of his display screens she was silenced.
Roman knew where the emitting radar was within a two-thousand foot radius. Now the F-4G’s high resolution synthetic Aperture radar (SAR) went fully active to precisely locate the target with Global Positioning System (GPS) quality coordinates.
With another punch of the display button the target parameters were downloaded to the missile’s brain.
He launched the missile.
The eight-hundred pound HARM missile dropped from the plane into the dark night as inert as a dumb bomb but came to life as its rocket booster fired up and pushed the missile to over fourteen hundred miles per hour.
The Free Cubans had paid the U.S. the full list price of $283,985 for each one of these older AGM 88A missiles. If they were paying the full price of a new improved C model, contended the head procurer for the Free Cubans, that’s what they should get. Joshua Marti was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth and took the missiles with unabashed celebration. The two aging F-4G Wild Weasels were a bonus that he had hoped for but never thought they would get. They got them at bargain price of $107,000 per month till paid off in two years.
The United States were replacing the Vietnam era aircraft with the newer F-16C’s and the time was perfect to put the aging Phantoms to the use they were meant for. Fighting Vietnam era enemies.
The F-15’s were a different matter altogether. Each one cost the Free Cubans $1,308,000 per month for three years. This too was a bargain but the bargain was not in the price but the terms. The Free Cubans had trained non-stop for the preceding twelve months in U.S. aircraft on U.S. bases. The aircraft were to be delivered to the Free Cubans just before hostilities became evident. The month before the official delivery the Free Cubans had to scramble to sell enough stock in the Free Cuban enterprise to meet these obligations. One month later war was now upon them. With that war, the stock prices, freely traded on the internet, would soar to nearly untouchable prices.
Freedom Two dropped back down to treetop level as the missile streaked toward the Sam site. The Communist SA-6 Gainful was obviously as prepared as it could be. Before the F-4G dropped below the horizon, one of the Gainful’s three missiles launched a snap shot. The deck was hopelessly stacked against the Communist SAM operator. He knew he had a missile streaking toward him, probably a deadly HARM missile carrying twenty-five-thousand hardened steel fragments with his name on them. In ten seconds they would cut through his tank-like vehicle and put a thousand holes in him and his men. His target was now totally lost in the ground clutter and his missile had no hope of acquiring the enemy aircraft on its own at this range. The Communist Gainful lurched forward tearing away from the power cords that tethered it to its radar and raced forward down a dusty road in a desperate attempt to survive. The missile monitored the movement of its target and kept its menacing nose on the traveling missile carrier. Now eighty meters from its original location the Gainful sped away at forty kilometers per hour. The SA-6 exploded in a shocking blast that flattened the vehicle and blew it apart. The HARM missile disbursed its twenty-five-thousand tungsten cubed fragments in all directions each one traveling in excess of fifteen-thousand feet per second. In comparison, the fastest bullet used on the battlefield travels at three-thousand feet per second. The radar array, now one-hundred and fifty meters distant from the explosion, was damaged by them. Replacement missiles on their transport truck that seemed a safe distance of two-hundred and fifty meters were holed by the shrapnel and set afire.
Freedom Two turned hard to starboard (right) away from the Communist missile as Roman punched the chaff button. It was clear that the missile was a wild shot as it did not turn or maneuver with them.
“I thought I saw another unit near that SAM during the pop up,” declared Roman. “There it goes, what I tell ya, its transmitting now. Another SA-6.”
“Freedom Two, Freedom Two, Freedom Two,” yelled the AWACS officer from two hundred miles away “One MiG-21, on your six, five miles and closing. Two other MiG’s close behind him. Eight bogies in vicinity and twenty-plus others being vectored in on you.”
The two airmen were too busy to feel despair.
“Light him up and take him out,” growled Roman.
Pepe brought the radar online and his screen came alive with numerous threats flying toward them like arrows from all directions. He punched the missile off and it arced high into the sky turning one-hundred-and-sixty degrees toward the trailing MiG.
The Phantom’s radar, a full generation older than the F-15’s LADAR, had to continuously paint the MiG with radar beams so the missile could ride the reflected beams all the way to its target. That radar also gave them away to every enemy in the area. Roman could feel every malevolent communist eye turn toward them.
The targeted MiG dove for the ground in an attempt to evade the missile the moment after it responded in kind with its own radar guided missile. The MiG also had to fly relatively straight and level to guide its missile to the Phantom but there were two big problems with doing that. First, the Phantom surprised him and fired well before he did. The MiG pilot’s missile was following a target racing away from it. The American missile was closing in on him head-on. He would die first if he bravely, but stupidly, maintained his position and his missile would go unguided and useless. Secondly, his radar lock on the ground-hugging Phantom was intermittent at best. If his missile did come close to the American lackey all he had to do was shut down his radar, jam his weak signal and evade. So down the MiG dove.
“Give me a vector to the new SAM,” yelled Pepe.
“Its still there at our nine (o’clock), we’ve got two MiG’s right behind the first. They’ve got us locked up (targeted by their radar), do you see them?” responded Roman. He couldn’t believe Pepe was thinking about a new target. They could think about that in ten or twenty seconds from now, an eternity.
For seven long seconds the Phantom-4 followed a straight flight gaining altitude to keep in line of sight of the diving MiG. The Phantom was a perfect sitting duck.
“An SA-3 is in the air, range thirty kilometers…now there’s two,” Roman reported the Communist missiles now coming at them.
“Hold it, just a few seconds…” said Pepe. The radar image of the MiG blossomed green white then tracked multiple pieces of the broken enemy plane.
“It’s a hit, splash that bogey,” came the excited AWACS voice.
The Phantom banked sharply ninety degrees to line up on the newly transmitting SA-6 Gainfulliv missile launcher. The Wild Weasel was living up to its name tonight as it slid back down toward the ground, hugging it closer than it had ever done during a night flight. As it did so the powerful radars of the SA-3 air defense site, now thirty kilometers away, sunk below the horizon.
Pepe was in full afterburner now pushing past fourteen-hundred miles per hour lining up his gun run while two missiles were still heading in his direction.
“The SA-6 just launched on us,” yelled Roman. “Got a MiG-21 launching on us now, two missiles.”
The thought ‘five missiles from three platforms chasing us at the same time…that must be some kind of record,’ morbidly flashed across Pepe’s mind.
The SA-6 missile site was now a little more than eight kilometers away. Pepe’s mind visualized the mathematical problem in front of him. ‘SA-6 missile traveling at nearly one kilometer per second toward me, I’m traveling 0.63 kilometers per second toward it. Got to get within five km of the launcher before the missile arms itself and can detonate.’ This engagement would be determined by a few tenths or hundredths of a second. Whether in his favor or the Communists’, he just couldn’t calculate it in his brain. Pepe’s eyes narrowed and eyebrows scrunched and scowled as though he were about to crash his head through a brick wall. It was their only option, whether it worked or not. The other missiles in the air were at least eight seconds away. An eternity.
“Those two MiG’s are settin’ up for a fox two shot (heat seeking missile).”
Roman had been furiously working the chaff dispenser, creating the radar decoy clouds mostly for the benefit for the two radar missiles from the MiGs now following them.
The Communist ground based radar installation directing the two SA-3 missiles flying at them were now over the horizon and were less of a threat.
The SA-6 missile and Freedom Two went head to head with a closing speed of nearly one mile per second as Pepe started to gently undulate his aircraft up and down causing the missile to respond in kind. If the old Phantom fighter was within the missile’s minimum range of five kilometers the missile would, in all probability, not detonate but that does not mean that they couldn’t have a nasty head on crash with a thirteen-hundred pound missile. The instant Pepe spotted the missile visually it covered one thousand meters in less than a heartbeat and shot past the Phantom just under his port (left) wing. The missile corrected itself a little too late and drove its nose through the jets exhaust trail. Five hundred meters behind the Phantom the missile exploded.
“That SA-6 fired again,” Roman reported urgently.
Pepe backed the throttle down and pointed the nose up. The aircraft gained altitude and slowed so fast it threw both men out of their seats and into their harnesses.
“Freedom Two has six missiles chasing us,” Pepe broadcasted. He didn’t want to die fading silently into the night. Yes, it took time to say it, two precious seconds, but that was for him. He wanted to die with friends and family at his side and now with a simple sentence they were there with him.
During that two second sentence Pepe acquired the Gainful launcher by following the newly launched missile trail pointing back to its source. The point-blank launch was desperate act on the part of the Gainful missile launcher and no big threat to them. Now at an altitude of seven hundred feet he pointed the nose at his target.
From thirty kilometers away the powerful SA-3 GOA radar reacquired Freedom Two, illuminated them and redirected the two missiles now closing the distance to the Phantom. Freedom Two automatically answered the radar with a friendly IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) transmission, mimicking the MiG fighters IFF transmissions. The spoof wasn’t working. The SA-3 operator was having none of it and the installation fired two more missiles.
“The SA-3’s have reacquired (us), nine o’clock,” Roman said with a touch of bitter fatalism.
Pepe trained his gun on the menacing Gainful missile launcher. His night vision projected directly on his heads up display. The first burst thrashed the vehicle and exploded the remaining missile on its launch rail.
As Pepe’s bullets rained down upon the dying missile launcher Communist bullets from the ground responded in kind. A ZSU-23lv “Shilka” four barreled anti-aircraft gun, the very same model Freedom Two had dispatched earlier in the evening opened up on them. The rounds streaked though the night vision screen like tracers. The gun was almost as lucky as the Phantom had been with its first burst, blowing two holes as big as a fist through the starboard (right) wing. For whatever reasons the Shilka rounds did not explode upon contact. Maybe they were old and defective. Maybe they were just cheaper solid bullets. Pepe started to bank hard in an attempt to turn on the gun but he was traveling too fast and the angle was too sharp. He streaked past the mobile gun that was still blazing away at them.
Roman was furiously working the chaff button and the decoy flares as a shoulder-fired missilelvi sprang from the ground and gave chase. In one-and-a-half seconds the small missile homed in on one of the many flares falling like a waterfall from the Phantom and exploded. Shrapnel peppered the aircraft as the two aviators felt the shock of the four pounds of explosives going off less than one-hundred feet away.
The two radar missiles fired from the MiG’s giving chase now had their turn. It had been no easy task for the MiG pilot to keep the missiles on track with all the commotion the American was causing. At best the Wild Weasel was a fleeting target fading in and out of his older spin cast radar. The look-down shoot-down capabilities were none too good in the MiG-21. That was especially true when traveling at nearly the same speed as its target. The MiG really had to push it to stay with the Phantom. When the SA-6 missile exploded in the trail of the Phantom the electromagnetic radiation given off by the blast temporarily blinded the missile’s signal to the pilot. It was a wonder why they hadn’t plowed into the ground. When the uplink was re-established a whole second later, the pilot was astonished that both missiles survived. The MiG pilot was impatient to close the distance and finish off the aging Phantom with heat seeking missiles. He was closing the distance nicely while the American was busy evading, dodging and attacking. The Phantom was a formidable enemy when dealing with radar guided missiles. The playing field would be level when it came to heat seeking missiles and the Communist knew it. On his heads up display the MiG pilot then saw the Shilka gun open up and his two missiles fly bravely through anti-aircraft fire to close on the American. True, the target was rather nebulous viewed through the enormous chaff clouds it had dispensed but he was confident the Phantom was somewhere in that cloud. Then it happened. Some army dim-wit had fired a grouse (SA-18 shoulder fired missile) that exploded as his missiles neared the Phantom. For an instant he had hoped that his missiles hit their target or maybe the grouse had brought down the American. His hope sank when he again picked up the Phantom still streaking close to the ground apparently unharmed. It was time to lock up the American with his heat-seeking missile.
Pepe could feel a vibration in his control stick and rudder pedals. The engine instruments looked OK. Then he noticed the right wing fuel gauge was falling fast. He immediately started transferring fuel from the right wing to the fuselage and left-wing tanks. He was going to lose most of it before the recoverylvii.
Roman could not believe they had survived.
“What’s the vector to the last target, Roman, talk to me,” Pepe demanded.
“Head 262. Target is at 37 kilometers. We’re in range now. Get me enough altitude, I’ll get off the shot.”
Their last target was a large, fixed air defense complex. The thirty-year-old anti-aircraft missile regiment was well known and mapped from satellite intelligence. The GPS coordinates to its headquarters and nerve center were already safely held in the Phantom’s computer. With a push of a button Roman downloaded the targeting information to the HARM missile.
Pepe toggled on the VOX broadcast switch so everyone, friend and foe alike could hear their last moments. “We’ll pop up in a few seconds. You shoot the HARM. We don’t have enough fuel to make it home. We’ll go Fox three (gun attacks) and mix it up with the MiGs above us, try to get those SAMs to take out a few of their own planes. Then we bail, but I don’t think we’re gonna make it, Roman. I love ya man.”
Roman knew they weren’t going to survive as soon as Pepe started talking about love.
“Copy…ditto,” came Roman’s reply laced with despair. The visual image of his three-year-old son holding his finger, looking up at him, made him exhale in pain. He had an urgent desire to see his wife and three kids just one more time.
The two MiGs stayed in full afterburner, burning huge amounts of fuel. The lead MiG dropped his external fuel tanklviii and both gained altitude. Two SA-2 missiles streaked across the sky well above and in front of the MiGs and self-destructed. As the two MiGs once again climbed above the horizon another pair of SA-3 missiles following the first two missiles that had just self-destructed turned on the MiGs. The MiG pilot dove for the ground and sent out an urgent message that was picked up by the American RC-135 RIVET JOINTlix electronic reconnaissance plane. “One-twenty-six to Santa Clara, I’ve got two SA-3’s tracking me,” the MiG pilot screamed. “Tell them to hold their fire.”
The MiG was furiously punching out chaff clouds and decoy flares. His wingman was a little slow to pick up on what was happening. He too headed for the ground, punching his decoys but was met by two SA-3 missiles each carrying a 60 kilogram warhead. Two hundred and sixty-four pounds of explosives disintegrated the indolent MiG.
As the lead MiG was recovering from the buffeting his aircraft received from the explosion he flew over the burning wreckage of the two unfortunate SA-6 Gainful anti-aircraft missile launchers.
The Communist troops on the ground must have taken the exploding aircraft and the flares dropping from this plane as an admission of the MiG’s guilt. They had no hesitation this time as six shoulder fired missiles reached up from the ground to bat the MiG from the sky.
“Panhandle to Freedom Two, those two bogies on your tail were downed by friendly fire.”
“That’s it,” said Pepe as he pointed the Weasel’s nose to the stars and blasted skyward on a pillar of fire. The Phantom’s radar illuminated the sky around them. Multiple bandit icons filled the screen all pointing at the wounded Phantom. Pepe chose one for a head-on gun attack and rocketed toward him. Roman was busy acquiring the final target. He recognized it easily as the huge complex covered many acres and the access roads to the numerous missile launchers made it look like a giant flower carved onto the face of the earth. The location of the anti-aircraft regimental headquarters had long been known to the Americans who were eager to pass that information on to people who would use it. Those few digital coordinates were now locked into the HARM missile’s brain. The missile fell away from the Phantom and blasted off into the night.
Roman quickly switched his focus back to the threats that surrounded them. “We have multiple missile launches. Four SA-3’s (large ground based missiles) in the air, seven o’clock. Two PL-7’s (air-to-air radar guided missiles) two o’clock. What’s your plan Pepe?”
“We are terminal, Roman, ergo invincible.” There was a small pause. “I have rounds in my gun. If I get a chance to slow down you can punch out.”
“Don’t even think about it. When you go, I go,” Roman responded with real anger in his voice.
Pepe throttled down and came out of afterburner to eliminate the huge fiery jets behind the plane. He lined up the gun sights on his HUD (heads up display) as his airspeed bled off rapidly. It was a very disorienting sensation to be thrown against your harnesses decelerating more rapidly than car with locked up brakes, closing with the target at over one-third of a mile per second then seeing the enemy’s gun blinking faintly. It was surreal. Pepe sent a long stream of bullets that arced like water from a fire hose. The stream flew high and right. He sent a second stream of bullets which tagged the enemy’s left wing. Then he sent a long burst high and to the left. Pepe was good with statistical probability. He knew with over a fifty percent probability what reaction the MiG fighter pilot would have. Going head to head and being hit in his starboard wing the natural response of his enemy would be to break off, bank to port, trade his speed for altitude and climb. When the MiG did just that, it ran directly into the deadly stream of bullets. In Pepe’s display the MiG-23 shuddered as it seemed to shed a dusty cloud of debris. It instantly trailed smoke, which turned into flame. In the blink of an eye the Phantom whizzed past the stricken foe. Pepe dove for the protection of the ground, bucking and jinking all the way.
“More launches, look at your screen, looks like heat seekers,” Roman said as he busied himself with countermeasures.
The screen had been flooded with the icons of hostile aircraft and menacing missiles. All information the Phantom had was now being transmitted in lightning fast bursts to U.S. intelligence aircraft. They weren’t going to make it. Four missiles would overtake the Phantom in the next moment as more missiles lofted skyward.
“Watch it, BREAK RIGHT!” yelled Roman.
Two radar missiles were again completely countered. The heat seeking missiles were not so easily fooled. One went after a flare decoy but was close enough to damage the tail and hydraulics when it exploded. One overshot the Phantom and exploded over the starboard wing next to the cockpit. Pepe’s world exploded. When he regained consciousness just a moment later he found himself in the middle of a tornado fighting to control the aircraft. The flight stick was mushy and not responding well.
“Roman, Roman,” groaned Pepe through spasms of pain.
Roman did not respond.
The canopy behind him had been blown apart. He looked at his rearview mirror to check on Roman. He reached up to wipe off the mirror now splattered with human debris. He gasped in pain as he smeared the mirror and only made the image worse.
He could barely see Roman, his helmet lolling about with the movement of the plane. Blood covered Roman’s facemask and neck. Pepe knew he was dead.
Pepe touched his abdomen to realize the flight suit was the only thing keeping his guts from falling into his lap. It felt like he had been cut in two. A piece of shrapnel must have pierced the side of the cockpit. In a panic he felt for his liver. The large organ held a third of the body’s blood. If it were destroyed he was a goner. Only a mass of blood and broken ribs were there. He could feel life slipping away. The thought of an ejection was out of the question. It felt like it would rip him in half. ‘What was the use anyway? I am a dead man,’ he thought.
He fumbled to take his flight gloves out of his pocket. With a screaming cry of pain he stuffed the gloves in the gaping wound and maintained firm pressure on his bleeding liver. ‘I just need a few seconds more,’ he thought. Pepe banked the Phantom and headed toward the Communist runways of Santa Clara now just over the horizon.
He did not have a free hand to throttle up to increase his speed. In any event, he was not so sure how the plane would respond to hypersonic speed.
“Freedom Two to Panhandle, we are out of weapons, plane is damaged, crew is dead and dying. Were going down. I’m going to crash the plane into Santa Clara. There will be no survivors, repeat, no survivors. Over.”
“Copy that, Freedom Two,” came the solemn response.
As Pepe approached the air base the tracers from the anti-aircraft batteries created serpentine figures in the sky. He knew missiles were after him, MiG’s were closing in on him and people were shooting at him from the ground but the loss of blood made him beyond caring.
“I am terminal, ergo invincible,” he repeated.
The runways and taxiways of the airbase came into view.
“Oh (expletive)” he breathed. Too weak now for his voice to be anything but a whisper, he said “I count eight plus MiG-29’s on the ground.., now twelve plus… Most in two hangars, end of eastern runway, three lined up on taxiway, I will try to crash into some.”
Thee beautiful new MiG-29’s, still in their Venezuelan color scheme, were now lined up on the taxiway ready to take off. Pepe counted five more in a hangar nearby. Yet another hangar was in the process of closing its armored doors where he saw at least four more. He tried to line up on the three waiting MiG’s but the controls were progressively getting worse. It took a stronger arm to control the stick now but his strength was ebbing away quickly. As the Phantom sluggishly turned he exhausted his ammunition by sending a short stream of bullets into the hangar and the sparkling new MiG’s, instantly causing a fire. A stream of tracers shot over his cockpit and ripped a line along the ground to the front of his plane. The MiG that fired the heat seeking missiles was on his tail trying to finish him off. He was too weak to counter or even look for him.
“I gunned some in hangar, now lining up on MiG’s on taxiway, MiG on tail,” he said in shallow breaths. He was still on VOX and was transmitting every word. “Five hundred meters.” Darkness seemed to envelope Pepe, a black tunnel with nothing but the enemy’s aircraft at the end of it.
The three MiG-29’s seemed frozen in place like bowling pins waiting to be knocked down and he was the bowling ball. A bowling ball that was traveling six hundred miles per hour and twenty feet off the ground. At one hundred meters he started to nose the plane down when a burst of bullets lashed at his wing and fuselage.
“Father, Father, into thine hands…”
The Phantom slammed into the ground and slid along the taxiway smearing a large fiery fuel slick and a shower of sparks in its wake. The thirty-one-thousand pound F-4 rear-ended the three beautiful MiG’s now heavily laden with fuel and rockets at five hundred miles per hour. The bright and beautiful crews, both the innocent martyrs and agents of evil, were consumed together in the fiery aftermath.
140km West of Santa Clara Air Base,
A Communist Cuban Air Base
September 30, 2018 “L” Day minus One 9:22 PM
F-15 Fighter Aircraft, Freedom One
Ten minutes before Phantom Two’s crash
“Panhandle (AWACS radar aircraft) to Freedom One, head one-one-seven, sending IP (initial point) now.”
The download popped up on their screen neatly mapped with their planned route and with Freedom Two’s route highlighted in blue.
“Ok, we follow the weasel in. We’re gonna get a hot reception,” said Cuco.
“Not as hot as those guys are going to get,” muttered Izzy.
Izzy’s implication was clear. They had left Freedom Two without fighter cover so they could bring down a MiG-29 piloted by a retard. The trade was not worth it. Then it occurred to Izzy why it was such a bad trade. The communists must have plenty of the advanced fighters. That’s why the pilot was so inexperienced. The Fulcrums are not in the air. So where are they?
They flew the imaginary road in the sky projected on their computer screen until they heard Pepe’s report, “Freedom Two has six missiles chasing us.”
Izzy and Cuco listened in horrified fascination to the Phantom’s last desperate moments.
“Panhandle to Freedom One, twelve plus missiles in the air. They’re shootin at their own guys. The Commie pilots are screamin’ for them to hold their fire but they’re still shooting.”
“Kook, they got a hangar full of Fulcrums. You want to hit it instead of the taxiway?”
“Sure, if you can. It will take some fancy footwork. You make the call.”
Izzy visualized the air base. There were at least eight large hangars. Trying to decide which one to hit during a pop up would be tough, plus they had only three bombs left. Santa Clara had two runways.
“He said the hangars were at the end of the eastern runway.” Izzy brought up the latest image from the E-8 Joint STARSlx (surveillance and Targeting Radar System) ground-reconnaissance aircraft. The image showed smoke pouring out of one of the hangars. The hangars on either side of it were closed up. It was a fifty-fifty chance which one held the MiG-29’s. Maybe they both did. Izzy highlighted the GPS coordinates of one of the hangars from the image then copied and pasted them onto his targeting screen.
Cuco lit up the LADAR. It showed that most or all bandits were heading away from the target. They probably had enough of their own friendly fire and were steering clear of the base. It was unbelievably good luck. They could have ended up swarmed and overwhelmed like the Phantom was if the Communists could have coordinated their air defenses better.
“You better be ready with those new coordinates Izzy, here we go. Three, two, one, go.” The F-15 shot into the sky and gained one thousand feet in four seconds. To their surprise no missile launches or anti aircraft fire greeted them. They could see the burning wreckage that was now the funeral pyre of their dear friends. One of the hangars had fire pouring out of the top of its open doors. Cuco was careful to maintain the correct altitude and speed for the drop. The margin of error was plus or minus fifty feet in altitude and plus or minus ten miles per hour in speed. Cuco had always been one of the best at being right on the money in practice and in combat he was proving to be even better. The bombs dropped away from the aircraft and again the F-15 headed for the safety of the ground, punching out chaff clouds and dropping white hot flares in the process.
Behind them anti-aircraft fire once again resumed and two shoulder fired missiles targeted the decoys burning brilliantly in the night. But far too late. They were long gone.
Free Cuban Armed Forces –
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day. 11:35 PM*]
“Medic,” yelled Boitel again. Impatient with the Navy puke’s response, he grabbed the end of the large wooden sliver from a shattered two-by-four that had pierced his side and pulled on it.
“Ahh, ahh,” Boitel groaned in pain as he unsuccessfully tried to pull it out. He laid down on the broken debris that now covered the floor to await the medic.
The artillery stopped raining down followed by a momentary silence.
“Here they come again,” someone called as rifle bullets began whacking the side of the building. Another surge of enemy tried to swarm their position. The team let loose a fusillade that brought the charging enemy down. Within seven seconds the situation was back in control.
“Let’s get out of this building,” Ozzy said. “Scottie, Phillips, take Gordo and Havee, flank them (sneak around to the side of the enemy) to the right. The rest of you spread out to the other buildings on this block. Don’t bunch up. One mortar could get us all.”
Boitel started to get up. He was not going to let this war pass him by. Not while he had this much fight left in him.
“Whoa son, where you goin’?” said the older mullatto medic. “You jess lie back down there boy. I’ll have you off fightin’ soon enough.”
The medic cut away Boitel’s clothing around the wound in his side with a pair of scissors. A jagged piece of splintered wood ten inches long and a couple inches wide had pierced his side.
“It looks like it just went through your skin, not in your abdomen. I’ll have to see it with some light on it,” he said.
“Naw, it bounced off my abs of steel, it didn’t get me good,” Boitel said hopefully.
“Just how did this happen?” said the medic as he tore the wrapper off of his scalpel.
“I fell on it. I fell through that hole in the ceiling. Fell on that piece of wood over there. It must have broken off when I landed on it,” said Boitel, instinctively guarding his wound.
Carrion, now acting as the medic’s assistant, threw his poncho over Boitel. The medic got underneath the poncho and turned on his flashlight. The Carrion was careful to step on the corners of the poncho that were letting light escape from underneath. The medic injected some lidocaine and cut the flesh that held the wooden spike in place, irrigated, stitched and bandaged up the wound, then gave Boitel a prescription of antibiotics and pain killers all within twenty minutes.
“You see a medical unit tomorrow first thing, ya hear? That’s an order.”
“K,” Boitel rolled over on his stomach to get up and groaned in pain as he got on all four. He looked at the medic as he paused before struggling to get up.
The medic laughed “Well I never said you’d be good as new.”
“Doc, I’m better than new. Where’s that piece of wood you took out of me?”
With the bloody stick safely tucked in his web gear Boitel rejoined the battle.
Free Cuban Armed Forces –
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day. 11:35 PM*]
It was a long day for Joshua Gonzalez. A long and glorious day. He felt a need to give thanks. Tagging along with him was a young reporter named Smithy that Joshua was becoming particularly fond of. They entered the long white rectangular tent. Joshua held only a small valise. “Now this is no ordinary tent. It was constructed along the same lines as the ancient tabernacle the Israelites used during their long sojourn after escaping from Egypt.
The tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon were copies of the genuine mountain temple of Mount Sinai,” recited Joshua.
Both men entered a small room to their right, a locker room of sorts. He took off his jacket, hung it as neatly as he could on the hook provided. He slipped off his shoes and socks and placed them below his jacket. Now he opened up his valise and gazed upon his most prized possessions. The sacred vestments he would wear in the hour to come. Smithy came a step or two closer and peered into the valise.
“Oh, I’m sorry Smithy, I forgot myself,” Joshua said as he closed up the valise. “You have some questions I think.”
“I, uh…I’ve read about the ceremony on the web,” said Smithy as he scribbled on his notepad, “granted, it’s written by your enemies but is it accurate?”
“Some is and some isn’t,” said Joshua as he sat down with a sigh on the spartan wood bench that ran the length of the lockers.
“Well, let me ask you point by point. Before you enter the tabernacle you are barefoot and you ceremonially eat some bread and drink water? Is that right?”
“Yes, when Moses approached the bush that would not be consumed with fire, he learned that the immediate area was a separate, sacral, set-apart space “Come no nearer” commanded God. “Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground” that’s Exodus three-five.”
“And the bread and water from the rock fountain?” asked Smithy.
“The bread represents the manna provided by the lord to the Israelites while in the desert. As for the rock fountain, it is a reminder of the water he miraculously provided when Moses touched the rock with his staff,” said Joshua.
“I’ve heard of the manna but not the water story,” said Smithy.
Joshua recited by memory, “And the people thirsted there for water: and the people murmured against Moses and Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, what shall I do unto this people? And the Lord said unto Moses Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel (Exodus 17: 3).” Joshua paused with another sigh and continued, “The image of God, the rock, and the water in this passage is a reminder that both the rock and the water are symbols of God.” Smithy scribbled furiously. “Oh I wish you would have let me take my recorder,” Smithy said in pleasant irritation. “Now, later on in the ceremony there’s bread and water but that stands for something else?” “Yes,” said Joshua, starting to enjoy the conversation, “that’s similar to communion. Christ’s last supper. The bread and wine. The ceremony by which we repent, take upon ourselves his name and promise to keep his commandments. The Altar. What can you tell me about the altar.”
“Well, Like the temple itself it has the appearance of a miniature mountain. The altar that was built by Moses was constructed either of unhewn stones of the earth itself, and Joshua built an “altar of unhewn stones upon which no man had lift up any iron,” (Joshua 8:31), thus giving the impression of a natural mountain like altar.”
“How about the ceremonial clothing,” Smithy said as he glanced at Joshua’s valise.
“That, I will say nothing of,” Joshua said defensively. He paused and looked up apologetically and said, “Sorry. Let me quote a few passages that may help you understand. Firstly, in relation to the temple, from Leviticus we read, “and [Moses] put upon [Aaron] the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith,” another passage of scripture denotes a token of what Paul regarded as taking upon one the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:13). They all have symbolic meaning.”
A man in green dungarees appeared at the entrance of the room. “Mr. President, the council needs your attendance.”
Joshua’s shoulders visibly sunk. “Well Smithy, I got this far,” Joshua paused. “Never mind,’ he said. Joshua leaned toward Smithy and whispered, “I will soon be in a place of worship far more beautiful than this one.” Joshua looked with affection at the white canvas walls that surrounded him. I just wanted one more time here.”
Joshua stiffly stood up from the bench and put weight on his cane.
“I’m sorry if I kept you from your ceremony,” Smithy said with real concern. He had many more questions about the vows and oaths, the promises of great rewards in the hereafter, the strange remembrance of soldiers long since dead in the cause for freedom.
“Nonsense my son, talking with you was the only reason the Lord sent me to the Tabernacle. I see that now.” Joshua looked up into Smithy’s face as he placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Goodbye my boy, God bless you.”
End of Chapter Two
Cuba Chapter 3
Free Cuban Armed Forces –
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day. 11:35 PM*]
The war thus far had been nothing but a lot of trudging through the countryside with a lot of heavy equipment for Elvis Olivares. He had left his home in the Pinar del Rio Province nearly two years ago. A schoolmate of his had seen the red flashing light of the rescue ship while riding from work in the tobacco fields. When Elvis heard that the ship was three-point-three kilometers off the coast of Punta de Cartas he immediately dropped the tools he held in his hands and walked the six kilometers to the point overlooking the American ship. With little trouble he managed to elude the patrols located there to intercept escapees. Perhaps they were too busy incarcerating the many others flocking to the area. Maybe the MINIT officers just did not care to hassle fellow Cubans wanting only to be free. In any event Elvis simply walked up to a house, knocked politely and informed the people inside that he would need to take their door. When Elvis started studying the front door jam the man of the house told him he could have an interior door, perhaps the bedroom door. In the end Elvis was talked into two plastic milk containers tied together by rope. It worked well enough.
Elvis had been hauling one hundred pounds of gear for nearly six hours, mostly in the darkness. Sweat drenched his clothing and he didn’t even know he knew the vile words coming out of his mouth. He was in charge of one of the new TRAPlxi systems or Telepresent Rapid Aiming Platforms. “Portable, my (blank),” he mumbled.
When Elvis finally came within sight of his squad they had their packs off, drinking kool-aid from wide mouthed lexan containers peering at a map their squad leader held in front of them. He would be the happiest man in the world if he could just get this pack off. He would want for nothing more from life. Just rest.
Before he could reach the group of huddled soldiers they began to break up, ruck up their packs and move out again. He was within earshot when he overheard his squad leader say, “There he is now, take him out with you, fill him in on the plan and give something to drink.”
Elvis groaned. Not even a five minute break.
“You’re almost there buddy. One more klick,” said his friend Nestor.
Nestor had escaped to a rescue ship the day before Elvis and was therefore his superior in the pecking order. “Here, drink this.”
The Kool-aid was warm and watered down but still the best thing Elvis ever tasted.
“I got you the best spot, with us, out on the far left flank (side),” said Nestor “We got all the action.”
“All right,” said Elvis between heavy breathing and gulps of fluid. He tried to sound as enthusiastic as he could. All he wanted to do was drink Kool-aid, curl up in a fetal position and sleep. He stood there swaying slightly under his heavy load.
“Madre mia,” said Nestor “give me the gun. I’ll carry it.” He turned to three soldiers still adjusting their loads. You guys go scout the position, Rodriguez, you come back and help with Olivares’ equipment.”
“If I wanted to carry his equipment I would have been the TRAP gunner,” Rodriquez snapped.
Nestor’s jaw tightened and eyes narrowed as he silently stared at Rodriquez.
Rodriquez felt a little sheepish about his curt response. “Oh, aye, aye Cap.” He looked at Elvis. “Sorry elf boy, I’m just tired as (expletive).” He blew a hard a couple of times as he shifted the weight on his back “I’ll be back, we’ll get you there. We can’t slow that enemy advance without our hide-e-hole gunner,” he jided.
The final hike was more like one-and-a-half kilometers to their defensive position but it was worth the effort. It was a good position thought Elvis, a brushy slope overlooking the main highway heading east on a broad flat expanse.
“There’s no one between you and the bad guys now, buddy. Everyone out there is enemy. Do not hesitate to shoot. Comprehende?” said Nestor.
“Yes sir,” Elvis replied as he got out his trenching tool. “What do we hear on artillery support?”
“Well, they’re, uhh… they’re still trying to push past Guantanamo City. I don’t think we can count on them at least for a couple hours. Maybe tomorrow. But we should have a mortar in position sometime tonight… Maybe tomorrow.”
Elvis could hear the worry in his friend’s voice and even through his greenish night vision image he could see it in his face.
Elvis started digging. “No sweat. This baby can hold off the entire Eastern and Central army combined.”
“I hope so. ‘Cause they’re on their way. The Eastern army will be rolling down that highway anytime now,” Nestor said as he overlooked the landscape.
“Tell me something I don’t know, like when we’re getting artillery support and maybe some air support,” grunted Elvis between shoveling. “And how ‘bout some IMSlxii (Intelligent Munitions System) units in front of our position. We could all just dig our holes and take a nap if we had some of those.”
“Air support, psschaa… you must be smoking somethin. We’ll be lucky to get a predator overhead tomorrow if we are still alive. We’ll be lucky if…” His voice trailed off.
Elvis paused and looked up at Nestor. “You better be digging, boss man,” Elvis said as he perceived something different in his friend.
Nestor stood frozen in the darkness with the night vision binoculars to his eyes. “They’re here.” He said “Advancing in formation. Three klicks out. Lots of them.”
40 Kilometers west of Ciego de Avila
October 2. L Day plus one. 4:00 PM
The train lay dead still on the tracks as men busily scurried about carrying the wounded on makeshift cots.
It took a total of thirty minutes to gather the prisoners and organize them into working medical groups. Each wounded soldier was assigned at least two of his comrades to take care of him.
Then Corporal Garcia Lopez addressed the waiting prisoners. “I extend the best wishes of President Marti. President of [_All _]Cuba. Seeing that you are currently unemployed,” chuckles dominoed through his men, “he formally extends to you his invitation to join the Free Cuban Armed Forces.”
Corporal Lopez had never talked to Joshua Marti in his life but he was right in assuming that the flyer and his actions were all the authority he needed to speak in the name of the Free Cubans.
“You will receive your back pay still owing to you from the Communists. You will receive shares in the Free Cuban Armed Forces that will be worth no less than ten thousand U.S. dollars, probably more like a hundred thousand. If we maintain control of Ciego de Avila Province you will get a percentage of the entire province. You and your families will be given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States if you want to. It is there for you to take, it is there for you to lose. And believe me if any of you give me reason to doubt your fidelity to this cause or slack in your duties I will bounce you out of this army so fast,” he paused, smiled and said, “could I see by the raise of hands who would be interested in this proposal?”
One soldier’s arm shot up with enthusiasm. He looked around him to the unsure looks of his comrades. He grabbed his friend next to him by the arm and raised it. “Get your arm up dummy!” All eyes turned to him and he responded by standing up, eyeing carefully this crazy Lopez guy who was so unstable as to attack a train filled with large elements of the Western army with just a handful of guys. This crazy little commander could be capable of anything. With Garcia Lopez’ nod of permission the prisoner turned to his fellow troops.
“All those who don’t want to join the Free Cubans raise your hands.” The soldier said as he looked over the large group.
The group looked sullen and still in shock from battle.
“Ogra, Quintero Valdes, Suarez,” the soldier spat the names out bitterly, “get your stinking arms up. Not so big now are you, you sons of (blanks).”
One of the named men raised a pointed finger at his accuser “You traitorous (expletive), you will be shot when this is over.”
The soldier’s face mottled red with rage and instinctively grabbed for his bayonet only to find the scabbard empty. He turned to Corporal Lopez. “Give me your pistol, I’ll kill the bad ones for you.”
Lopez laughed with pure joy. He walked through the crowd of sitting men to put his hand on the shoulder of this brash middle-aged soldier. Lopez could now read the soldier’s badly worn embroidered nametag. “Solano is it?”
“Yes sir, Rafael Solano. Private,” he said as he saluted.
Lopez smiled and saluted back then extended his hand to shake.
“Nobody is going to kill nobody,” Lopez said with a good natured smile. “You are in charge of these prisoners. Pick out the ones you think we can’t work with and send them over there,” he said as he pointed toward the head of the train. “We need the tank crews to report over at that tree there,” Lopez said pointing in the opposite direction.
“We need all of the tank crews. You’re in charge. Make it work,” Lopez said as he took off his holster. He paused and looked at Solano squarely in the eye as he handed over the gun and said, “You shoot no one. Comprehende?”
Solano saluted “yes sir!” With a malevolent smile he pulled the Makarov handgun out of its holster and turned again to his hated ex-commanders. “Ogra, Quintero Valdes, Suarez,” Solano yelled. Through gritted teeth and his knuckles going white on the grip of the gun he said, “stand up”. The men hopped to their feet with newfound energy. “Go to that car over there,” he said as he waved the gun in the direction of the train. The men obeyed without hesitation. Next he bellowed out, “All tank crews stand up!” The prisoners looked puzzled but some slowly got to their feet. Solano walked around the sea of men kicking the feet of some who were still sitting. The uniforms gave the tankers away. “Get up, I said.” When he was satisfied all the tankers were standing he gave them their orders.
Free Cuban Armed Forces –
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day plus one. 12:05 AM*]
The communist artillery rounds started to fall as Elvis was about three-fifths done with his foxhole. The guys in his unit called his a post hole since it was such a tight fit. The hole to hide the TRAP gunner was different from a regular fighting foxhole. It was made to support a lid to hide the gunner completely. An enemy soldier should be able to stand right next to the hide and not know it was there. In theory at least. His comrades were too busy with their holes to camouflage the top of his so he spread out some dirt on the top of his round plastic lid and battened it down tight over his head. A light, thin, very tough armored cable stretched from his hole to the trap gun now sitting in its own hole nearly thirty meters away. In the darkness of his cramped confines Elvis opened up the hearty little laptop which seemed to illuminate the hole like a hundred watt light bulb. He moused over the screen and clicked on the ‘extend’ button. The TRAP gun which had been laying slightly below ground level now automatically pivoted its four horizontal supports to vertical which brought the gun to about one foot above ground. Using the mini joystick he traversed the gun from side to side viewing the oncoming communists. Hundreds of heat signatures from human bodies dotted his screen. They were advancing on his hill spread out and ready for battle. So much for surprise. Six communist tanks roared around a bend in the road and came into view. Four of the rear tanks were firing machine guns and their main guns randomly into Elvis’ hill. The artillery rained even harder now. He could hear the snipers in his squad starting to hammer furiously at targets. An American made Javelinlxiii missile streaked straight down the road to hit the lead T-62 tank squarely on forward part of the turretlxiv. Elvis thought for a second that it had no impact. It hit on the tank’s most armored spot. However, in a second or two the tank ground to a halt and stood motionless on the road. Another javelin hit the last tank in line with more spectacular results. The top two hatches blew open immediately by a series of secondary explosions as the ammunition carried inside the tank ignited. The communists never did value the lives of their tankers much and so did not build the kind of protections in the Warsaw Pact tanks that were inherent in western tanks, like an onboard fire suppression or storing the tank’s ammunition in a blast proof chamber in the back of the turret with armored panels that blow outward to release any exploding ammunition into the sky and a blast proof automatic door to protect the crew from that exploding ammo. The T62 gunner and loader, on the other hand, actually carried a tank shell between their legs!
Exploding ammunition was one less thing the Abrams tank crew had to worry about. Their worry list was short. The M-1 tank, like the F-15 aircraft, had not suffered a single loss to its enemy counterpart in battle. In Iraq an M1 Abrams’ ammunition caught fire and the tank burned furiously. No one was able to reach the driver of the tank and pull him out. After the tank stopped burning they finally opened the drivers hatch to retrieve his body. The driver emerged unharmed except for the fact he was mad as a hornet that his friends waited so long to get him out.
Elvis switched to fully automatic and started mowing down the dozens of ghostly images surging toward the missile teams.
The four remaining tanks turned off the road and into their antagonists. Between the tanks and the dug in Free Cubans lay a six-to-eight foot deep gully that ran along the road. The lumbering giants slowly tried to negotiate the creek all at once. Apparently none of them wanted to be the next casualty on this deadly stretch of road. The Free Cuban missile teams courageously held their ground and their fire. They waited for a tank to expose its top hatch on its way down to the bottom of the gully. A few sparks in the sky was the only announcement the missile made before another tank turret blew high into the air and illuminated the battle scene in a white hot light. One of the tanks bogged down in the muddy bottom of the gully with its tracks spinning, stuck fast. The two remaining tanks roared up the other side of the gully and charged head long into the missile teams, which sent them scurrying back up the brushy hill.
The tanks getting off that road spelled trouble for the Free Cubans trying to hold the hill. The Communists would be advancing with armored support. If the tanks weren’t taken out, their stay on this hill could be measured in minutes.
The artillery was now a non-stop cacophony with no breaks at all between explosions, just a roaring, earth-jarring violence that seemed like the end of the world. He sent the signal to the gun to retract to its below ground level position. His screen went blurry and dark when the gun did so. The ground seemed to lift beneath him in shock waves and the air sucked out of his lungs. Elvis remembered studying about the Soviets who were assaulting some heights held by German Nazis during WWII. The Soviets brought ten thousand pieces of artillery to bear on that one assault. All the times he thought about being on the receiving end of artillery he had never even come close to grasping its terror. He realized in all his life he had never really been scared before. He was shaking like a cold Chihuahua. His eyes were wide with a crazed panic. He reached into his breast pocket for hard root beer candy and beta blocker pills. He ate plenty of both, chewing up wrappers and all. The candy shattered as Elvis chewed for his very survival. The plastic packaging of the pills cut his gums and the aluminum foil it contained made for a very unpleasant sensation between his teeth. He kept the mess in his mouth and sucked it like a chaw of tobacco. He had his own convoluted theory about the candy and his uncontrollable shaking. He was convinced that the adrenalin pumped into his system gobbled up the sugar in his bloodstream, leaving him weak and shaky. However it worked, candy did help him. The propranolol was standard issue to help inoculate the troops against post-traumatic stress disorder. He had his own theory about that too. Elvis thought it might help him control the fear he felt and let him think a little clearer.
He clicked the button to extend the gun to its upright position but got no response. He tried a few more commands to no avail. He had lost all contact with the gun. Either the line was cut or the gun itself was blown up. He reached down and picked up a spool of new line, ready to run it out to his gun.
The artillery stopped. Elvis was still frozen with fear. He just couldn’t seem to work up the courage to get out of that hole. Within a minute Elvis heard his name called out.
“Elvis! Elvis! Where are you?”
It was Nestor. Elvis pushed the lid up and brought his night vision receptacle over his right eye to find a world in a thick pall of dust and smoke from burning vegetation. “I’m here! I’m here! Right here!”
Nestor slid next to Elvis’ hole like he was sliding into home plate. “You OK?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m OK. You OK?” said Elvis. Nestor did not look OK. Both nostrils were bleeding and one of his ears was oozing dark blood. In fact the whole world did not look ok. The surrounding brush had most of their leaves blown off leaving the skeletal looking branches reaching for the sky.
Nestor said, “We’re pulling out buddy.” He almost sounded apologetic.
Elvis was a little confused about Nestor’s demeanor but it did not dampen the hope and relief that swept over him at the thought of getting out from under this artillery.
“Help me get the gun,” he said as he climbed out of his hole.
“Not you. Us.” Nestor said in a matter of fact way.
“What? Are you crazy? I’m not staying here without support,” Elvis snapped.
“It’s an order buddy. The sniper teams have already pulled back. They’ve overrun our perimeter. They’ve killed two guys down there. I think it was Gabriel and Boris. They were wounded they tried to surrender. They killed ‘em anyway. I saw it. They are not taking prisoners.”
It felt like Elvis’ brain went numb. He couldn’t focus his thoughts.
Nestor continued, “We don’t even have enough guys to get the wounded out. They slaughtered us down there, Elvis.” Nestor’s chin quivered but quickly caught himself. “Rivas is dead.”
This brought Elvis’ head up with a jerk. ‘What a waste,’ thought Elvis but those words sounded so meaningless in his head. Handsome, funny, kind, good Rivas. He muttered an expletive.
“I don’t think you got hit as hard here,” Nestor said as he surveyed the area and continued.
“The javelin teams are taking positions to the right and left of you. There’s a couple tanks out there. As soon as they knock them out we can take back this hill. We are moving the wounded right behind the hill. I think we set up an aid station back there somewhere. We’ll be back as soon as we get them over to the aid station. We are deploying all our Hopperslxv but that is only about ten or twelve or so.”
He was referring to the new and highly classified robot mine/grenade. Bigger than a hand grenade and smaller than a mine, these deadly little robots could be thrown like a very heavy hand grenade. Once it hit the ground it would right itself with gimbaled arms and point its brainy little head in the correct direction. An internal combustion chamber would ignite and drive a piston down to push against the ground and send the Hopper flying ten meters into the air and at the desired angle to achieve forward movement. It could repeat this sequence over and over and travel a distance of up to eight kilometers. All the while its cameras and sensors could send back intelligence. In the end it could find the heat signatures of the enemy, hop over to their location and explode like an anti-personnel mine at the optimum height. This generation of Hopper could not tell friend from foe, however. That improvement was quickly being added to the next version of the Hopper, which did nothing to alleviate Elvis’ fear of them. Ten or so was definitely not going to stop an assault of thousands.
“Great, Nestor. That’s just great! Just keep those things away from me,” Elvis yelled bitterly.
Elvis’ acute disappointment turned to anger at being abandoned on the hill with two missile teams that would fire their missiles (hopefully) and bug out as fast as rabbits, leaving him swarmed by hundreds of enemy.
“Ahhh,” Elvis growled in angry disgust as he spooled out a new line, moving fast in a crouching run to his gun. Bullets were whizzing through the dark smoky air and impacting randomly into the hill. He found the gun in good shape. He unplugged the old cable and plugged in the new, dusted off the scope and hooked up all three boxes of ammo in tandem. He ran back to his foxhole to find Nestor busy digging it deeper while two more members of the team, Freddy and Norberto, the latter missing a leg below the knee, were lying flat on the ground stripping off their armored vests. Elvis hooked up the laptop. “That’s good, that’s good,” he said to Nestor who was flinging dirt out of his hole. “Let me in,” Elvis said as he grabbed Nestor by the vest and pulled him out. He then leapt in the hole with his laptop in hand and immediately started to fire the remote gun.
“We’re putting three vestslxvi on top of your lid and gonna bury it,’ Nestor hurriedly informed Elvis. “Its gonna be heavy.”
Elvis did not seem to hear his friend so busy was he firing the gun. Nestor laid down some sticks to prop up the edge of the lid a few fractions of an inch for air as the other two camouflaged the whole affair.
Hundreds of enemy were advancing, dropping flat on the ground then advancing more in leapfrog fashion. Elvis picked a group of three out of those hundreds and gave them an automatic burst. They went down. He swung the gun to the next bunch, fired a good long burst and knocked them all down like bowling pins. He continued this for nearly a minute until he looked at his round counter. He tried to estimate his ammunition expenditure, how long he was likely to survive this position then vowed to use better fire control. The forward elements of the enemy were now within five hundred meters and found a defiladelxvii on the other side of a slight rise just below his position. He would have a short amount of time to hit the easy targets to their rear. When they came over that rise it would be FPF (final protective fire) from then out. Elvis was slightly confused when the Communist artillery started to rain down on the hill again as their infantry continued to advance into it. It puzzled him for a moment but before he could organize his thoughts as to what it really meant, a T-62 tank came into view to his right. He could see the driver’s head from chin to night-vision goggles as he peered through the tank driver’s hatchlxviii. This was another puzzle. Why was the tank not using its infrared spotlight for its night vision? Was it broken like everything else in this broken down country? The tank was coming almost head-on and moving tentatively through the brush spewing machine gun fire into the night. Elvis carefully laid the cross hairs on the single lens of the goggles on the tank drivers face, made minute aiming adjustments then fired a single round. As the sight picture corrected enough to see, the hatch was now empty and the tank ground to a halt. Over and over Elvis hit the rim of the open hatch and the curved turret just above it sending bullet fragments and splinters ricocheting down into the open hatch. He had to keep anyone else out of that driver’s seat. The proximity fused artillery exploded high in the air above his hole showering the area with deadly steel shrapnel driving a small red hot sliver into his calf muscle. He could only imagine how many fragments those armored vests, now piled on top of his lid had stopped. He swiveled the gun to take a quick look to his front only to find another T62 tank in full view at three hundred meters surging forward like an unstoppable tidal wave up the slope. He aimed at the driver’s prism viewer when the tank erupted in flame, apparently hit by an American missile. An ethereal, clear yellow flame enveloped the rear of the vehicle blowing down and out to the sides creating a horrifyingly beautiful billowing cloud of translucent fire. Elvis scanned back to the other T62 with the dead driver to see the crew struggling to get out. He encouraged the effort by not killing them. Dozens of enemy were now surging over the last rise some four hundred meters out, running hunched over with the barrels of their AK-47’s blinking white against the darkness. Enemy artillery was still impacting against the burning hillside and exploding at wildly different heights above hill. In his relatively narrow view of the battlefield he saw Communist soldiers fall to their own friendly fire only to be replaced by the ones behind them. He fired a single shot time after time downing an enemy fifty-percent of the time at this range. Six shots every five seconds. That was the minimum to qualify as a TRAP gunner. As the enemy closed the distance Elvis increased the rhythm of killing to a faster pace. He was quite good operating the gun already but with his life on the line and so many targets, he threw away the standard targeting procedure of carefully centering the cross-hairs and firing. He had pioneered the ‘swing through’ method of firing and now he used it. He did not stop the gun as the target tracked through sight reticle but fired as the cross hairs swung through the target as a hunter would in duck hunting. A duck hunter does not stop, aim and shoot at a bird on the wing. He traces the flight path of the bird with the barrel of his gun and fires slightly in front of the duck to have the birdshot and duck meet at a particular place and time. The artillery stopped and all he heard was small arms fire. After fifty or sixty shots he found that his gun would no longer fire. Experience had taught him the gun rarely jammed. It was so rare that it never happened to him personally. If there was a problem usually it meant that the belt of ammo had caught on something. He retracted the gun, extended it and pointed the barrel right and left but it did not clear. Elvis closed up the laptop computer, brought down the night vision monocularlxix, then he drove his neck and shoulder into the heavy lid and pushed it aside. He grabbed the M16 rifle and ran to his gun. The landscape was a smoking, smoldering hill that he did not recognize. He found himself lit by flickering flames from the brush and tried to stay in the shadows. Disoriented he ran far right of the gun. Bullets were whizzing through the air and he was sure the Communists were nearly upon him. He ran for a crater created by an artillery shell. Far too late he realized the hole was already occupied by a communist soldier. Elvis did not stop his forward movement, indeed could not. He switched his M16 off safety and jumped into the hole firing. Luckily for Elvis the soldier was busy inspecting a dead Free Cuban and his Javelin missile launcher when Elvis dropped in on him. Elvis fired over and over into the Communist until his gun stopped firing. Elvis threw down the rifle and fell back against the wall of the crater in horror as if the dead man would rise up and attack him. Once he realized the Communist was good and dead he came to his senses. Rifle bullets were ripping at the rim of the crater and flying within inches of his helmet. This dead guy’s buddies knew what was up. Elvis unsnapped the grenade holders on the dead soldier and laid four of the ancient crenulated pineapple grenades to get them ready to throw. He had to get out of this hole. Once the Communists knew their buddy was dead the grenades would start raining down on him. Anyway, the faster he could fix his gun the faster he could be back in his hole and at the moment that was all he wanted. The only rifle he could find was the dead soldier’s AK47. He quickly stuffed four enemy magazines in his body armor pockets. He pulled the pin on the first grenade and threw it down the hill. Nothing happened. He threw the remaining three and only two of the pieces of junk went off. He grabbed the rifle and ran to find the TRAP. He saw a dozen or so enemy going up the hill forty or so meters to his left but they were not looking in his direction. Then he realized there was no one between the Communists and the aid station behind the hill. Elvis swore as he decided not to shoot at them and find his gun instead. Then he saw it. A thin cable on the ground. He followed it down the hill a short distance and found his gun. The explosions had upturned the ammo boxes and trapped the ammo belt. He threw the boxes clear of the hole and was shocked to find how few rounds remained. A hundred maybe. He lifted the gun and placed it pointing left. From that position he could cover his hole and the approaches to the aid station. He heard the roaring engine of another T62 and for a moment thought the game was up when he remembered the Javelin missile launcher at the last hole. He was aggravated that he did not even notice if the launcher still had a missile in it. He deduced that the last tank was killed from a different direction and no one would carry an empty missile launcher if they were running for their lives. And why would a Communist be so interested in an empty launcher? He hoped he was right. He headed toward the missile launcher when three Communists ran right past him heading up the hill. None of them had night vision on and seemed oblivious to his presence some thirty feet away. He couldn’t let them slip behind him so he dropped to his knee and fired. At this range he could not miss. He shot the last guy in line in the head. The next guy stopped to see if his buddy behind him was hit when his helmet was blown off and went down hard. The soldier who was first in line saw Elvis’ muzzle flash and sprayed the area with automatic fire. Elvis dropped flat on the ground and fired twice into the man who fell backwards still clutching his rifle. Elvis had not gone unscathed in the exchange however. His helmet had stopped one of the AK rounds. Even while having a thousand thoughts a second going through his mind, the irony of getting shot in the helmet in return was not lost on him.
As he lay there waiting for the next threat to appear he realized he had still not drawn any fire from the enemy that now surrounded him. They were firing their AK47s so much, his shooting did not gather much notice. The tank engine grew louder every second. More soldiers were coming up the hill following the trio he had just dispatched. He ran to the missile launcher as the tank drove past him up the hill some fifty meters to his left. Elvis jumped into the hole and grabbed the launcher. He felt the front of it and found the protective dust cover in place. The missile was operational. Now if he could just remember how to fire it. He set the clumsy looking missile launcher on the rim of the crater, hit the power button and opened the lens cap. He switched to infrared sights and the tank filled his screen along with dozens of soldiers walking near it. He was not sure if the tank was far enough away for the missile to correct its flight and arm itself. He aimed low on the turret of the tank and fired.
The missile angled into the dark sky before kicking its tail up and diving on the Soviet tank. The last thing Elvis saw was the missile heading for the turret when the tank exploded like a car bomb. The turret flew nearly a hundred feet into the air. It had his complete attention as it tumbled end over end across the sky coming right towards him. He instinctively crawled backward over the bodies that occupied the crater with him as he saw the several tons of flying steel knife itself into the ground. About seven seconds later a grenade dropped into the hole and landed just across from him. He dove for it, grabbed it and with a twist of his body threw it hard out of the hole. For a split second he thought it was a dud. When it did finally go off he ran into the night.
The hill was literally crawling with enemy. Elvis managed to dart from shadow to shadow until he found his hole. He stowed the rifle, grabbed the laptop gun controller and jumped in. He slid the lid, now piled high with the three armored vests, dirt and scraps of brush, back over his head. He dreaded opening the laptop, afraid of the desperate situation it would reveal going on above him and afraid that it would not. He moused over the screen and clicked on the extend button. He could tell the gun responded but a big blurry blob seemed to block the viewfinder. For a second he berated himself for not cleaning the gun scope while he was there when the blob moved out of the sight picture. Elvis hit the mini-joy stick and followed the movement. In a moment he guessed it must be a Communist soldier scrambling away from the mechanical beast that just came to life, probably scared out of his wits for if he had any he would have jumped on the gun rather than run away from it. Elvis fired over and over into the blurry mass until it stopped moving. The targets were everywhere. Luckily, with a small belt of ammo draping out of the gun he could swing the barrel three-hundred and sixty degrees just as long as he moved in the same direction and let the ammo belt drag along with it. He aimed towards the top of the hill above him. Apparently some defense of the aid station was being made because the enemy were taking cover and firing in that general direction. Being behind enemy lines definitely had targeting advantages because the backs of most of the enemy up the hill could be clearly seen by Elvis’ gun. The only question was how long could you survive there. Elvis quickly rotated the gun to find any soldiers nearby he could take out first. The smoldering brush fires still messed up his infrared picture and had to rely on the night vision mode. Three faces could be clearly seen trudging up the hill toward the gun. Pop pop pop Elvis heard the distinct report of his gun as the three went down. Every Communist who heard it would unmistakably know that Free Cubans were still alive and fighting on this hill. He quickly swung the gun three-hundred-sixty-degrees hoping the dragging ammo belt would not catch on anything. One guy running away, pop, one head poking above a clump of brush looking for the source of the new weapon sounds, pop. He could only afford a single round per target. Then he saw a guy duck out of sight pretty near his hide-e-hole as Rodriquez would call it. He heard some crunching footsteps and a guy dive for cover somewhere close by his hole. He just hoped no light was escaping around the edges of his lid. Elvis thought he could hear his heart pounding as he remained absolutely silent. Maybe he could scare him away. He fired the remote gun and put a round over the guys head and could hear the sonic crack of the bullet as it whizzed over the top of his hole. ‘Blank’, he thought, ‘I better not do that again, that would be great if I shot myself’. The Commie made no movement at all that he could tell. He decided to finish scanning the immediate area. Pop, pop pop went his gun and down went some more targets. He pointed the gun back over his hole again and saw nothing of the soldier above him. He scanned the rounded ridge above him where some sixty or so enemy soldier’s backs were exposed to his gun while they were busy fighting an enemy on the other side of the hill. The range was an easy hundred-twenty meters shot. He shot the soldiers fighting closest to the top of the hill and any soldier who fired his gun. He sent twelve rounds down range and would have been surprised if he did not get twelve hits. He could see confusion set in as their attack started to break up. Some retreating, some carrying wounded comrades then he saw what was unmistakably a officer pointing toward the Free Cuban aid station yelling at his men, gripping a handgun. Elvis placed the cross-hairs on the officer’s helmet and fired. In a millisecond the officer’s body went inert, his voice was cut off in mid-sentence and he dropped in a heap. He could see a wide-eyed panicked face of a soldier in the corner of his screen turn toward the gun in realization. The scramble was on now as some of the communists ran in every direction, some still puzzled with the situation. Elvis kept firing, knowing he would be out soon. The round counter on the laptop read 2,864 rounds fired but was never meant to be exact. He knew had forty rounds left, tops. Then Elvis heard something right above his head that sent a new shock of panic through his gut. It sounded like someone was dismantling the top of his lid. He could hear one of the armored vests being pulled off and the dirt falling and shifting above him. Elvis swung the TRAP gun toward his hole to try to see what was going on. Through some brush he could see two bobbing helmets hovering near his hole. Now he heard all the vests being pulled off and a hand brushing dirt off the top of the lid. Elvis’ TRAP gun did not have a clear shot but he fired anyway. Six shots in rapid succession and he knew he got at least one of the soldiers. He heard a clang of a helmet being hit and the unmistakable dull thwacks of bullets hitting flesh and bone. The lid concaved a bit when the wounded soldier must have fallen on top of the lid. He heard some hoarse whispering then the enemy body started to be dragged off the top of his lid. He scanned the area with the gun but could see nothing. He fired a few more rounds but it did not stop the dragging sound. Whoever was out there must be laying flat on the ground in defilade.
Elvis heard a grenade explosion from the direction of his gun and the image on his screen was jolted from the explosion and it was enveloped in a dust cloud. Elvis figured he was about to lose the gun so he toggled through the screen menu and set the gun to automatic syncopated fire at about one minute intervals. The intervals were not exactly one minute but directed by a complex logarithm that made it sound like someone was firing the gun periodically. Four or five more grenades hit in and around the gun and his picture went blank. It was gone.
*Ciego de Avila. Ministry of the Interior armory *
[*October 1, 2018 L Day 11:37 AM *]
Cunagua, Cuba. Ministry of the Interior armory October 1, 2018 11:38 PM
“Let me at him,” screamed Edwardo’s friend, trying to get through the men crowded around the young wounded communist. Tears of pure fury were engraved in dirt upon his face. “I’m gonna kill him,” he continued, his face contorted with grief. Jose met him chest to chest and hooking his arms under the yelling man’s, drove him back. Taking this queue, others joined Jose in restraining the young man. “Easy now Meeho, easy. We’ve got him. We’ll take care of him,” Jose said in consoling tone. The others escorted the protesting soldier out of the building. As Jose returned to the wounded communist the others looked at him in silence as Jose studied the moaning form on the floor. One of the men took Jose’s silence and his words ‘We’ll take care of him’ to mean that the wounded Communist should be dispatched. He drew his knife and went down on one knee. He grasped the hair of the stricken young man and brought the knife forward as if to cut his throat. Jose stood silent for a split second. He felt like just another spectator in the room wondering if someone in charge was going to stop this guy.
“Wha… W.. What are you doing?” said Jose in a barely audible tone. The would-be executioner looked up with a puzzled look.
Jose continued “This man is our prisoner. You will treat his wounds and get him to the hospital.”
The knife wielding man’s face turned from confusion to determined anger. He said “no blanking way. This blank killed that Edwardo guy. You kill one of us, you go home in a box.” He looked around the men surrounding him for support. Nearly all were nodding their heads in agreement. Miguel’s eyes narrowed at this comment. It sounded a lot like insubordination.
Miguel stepped in and pointing to the knife wielder said “Carlos, you and Pedro take this guy out of here till he knows who the blank he is talking to.”
Jose started in, “We will follow the letter and spirit of the flier. Every prisoner will be treated according to the instructions we have received.”
A voice from the other side of the room said, “Aw come on, that flier was talking about dealing with a group of prisoners not one wounded blanker whose probably gonna die anyway.”
Jose replied “Every body is a ‘one.’ Everybody is going to see how we treat the ‘one.’ You think we are going to prevail in this conflict if eleven million Cubans think they will not be treated well by us? Jose pointed to two freedom fighters “you and you, get this guy to the hospital. Have him sign a note saying he agrees to parole.” Then looking down said to the young communist whose labored breathing he now heard for the first time, “You break your parole, you will be shot, that much I promise you.”
The preprinted agreement stated that: “In return for my freedom, I _____________ agree to not resist the revolution in any way. I will not serve nor support the communist forces arrayed against the revolution. I will not work for, pay taxes, fees or any benefits whatever to the current government of Cuba. I will not support any person or persons who do. I agree to receive an identifying tattoo mark on my left buttocks to identify me as a parolee. I agree to this upon pain of death. Signed _____________________
Fingerprints________ ________ ________ ________ ________ ________
The group of men carefully waded through the front offices of the armory building and into the warehouse itself.
The weapons cache was staggering. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of combat rifles were boxed and stored from floor to ceiling. RPG rockets, mines, mortars, they even had two artillery pieces. Sixteen trucks, eight BMP’s (armored personnel carriers) and two old T-55 tanks. The motley band of fighters wandered off in all directions, each one in awe of mountains of weapons now under their control. Jose’s first impulse was to grab them all up in his own hands and go fight the hated government. He needed more hands. Luckily nearly every adult in Cuba had some military or weapons experience. They were all trained with the goal in mind to kill invading U.S. Imperialists. The brave Communist workers would fight the Americans to the very last, or so Castro envisioned.
‘Yes,’ thought Jose, ‘we will fight to the very last, Raul, but not the enemy you hoped.’
“Miguel, Gather up the guys,’ barked Jose, his echoes filling the dusty warehouse. “We’ll meet here in this room. We need to get organized.”
As the men and boys were assembling, Jose started in. “Firstly, look around at the guys here. We are the core. We will rely on each other. We can trust each man here. Be careful of anyone else until they prove themselves in battle. Write your full names and addresses here on this paper.”
Everyone knew what signing the paper meant. It meant they were the founding group of the insurrection in this area with all the risks and rewards attached thereto. If successful they would own a percentage of all the government property in the areas they controlled. It would be hard to imagine the Council refusing the requests of motivated units that took the initiative and acted. But first they needed recognition from the Council, a charter.
“This is what I propose,” said Jose.
“We need access to city hall. They are the only ones who have an internet connection. We need to get recognition from the Free Cuban Council and establish our authority in this area. We will apply to them for reinforcements to be sent to us but I don’t think they can help us for a while.”
A voice piped up. “Let’s hope not for a while. I bet we can get at least four or five towns before they get here. We could go east and liberate Gaspar, Priedrecitas, Florida, maybe even Camagueylxx.”
Jose cut him short. “First things first. We need to make sure the road and rail lines are cut here in Ciego de Avila.”
“Why? They can just go around us at Moron,” said another.
Jose’s patience was wearing thin. With his exasperation well concealed he said “We need to get a group up to Moron before they get a chance to put up a defense. But we need more men. First we take the trucks and go around to different neighborhoods. You’re going to knock politely on the door and ask to see the men living there. You ask them politely if they want to join us. If they say yes and you think you can trust them have them tie some blue fabric on their upper arm, here,” he grabbed his bicep, “give them a weapon and put them to work recruiting. If they say no, we arm them, form them up into a platoon and put them under the command of a trusted Freedom Fighter. We only need them to fill out our ranks initially. Once we have enough real volunteers we send them home. This revolution is about free choice. I really do not like the idea of compelling anyone into our ranks that does not want to be there.”
Jose continued, “We need to get to the MINIT offices on Jardines del Rey Street. They are going to be ready for us I think. We need eighty guys or more. Once in, that will be our headquarters. We can communicate with the outside world. We secure Ciego de Avila, then we head straight for Moron. We will cut this island in two. Then we will push to other towns, head east, maybe even take Camaguey. The goal will be to link up with the Free Cuban forces in the east. We will create a protected corridor through which they can move west toward Havana.”
Jose had all the authority he needed from the Free Cuban Council and more.
His group, being the first to act in the insurrection, gave him complete control of all subsequent volunteers in the area. The flyers made it clear that action was the qualifier that earned rewards. They could easily surpass the earnings of the FCAF units by controlling Ciego de Avila and the rewards for controlling the whole province would be beyond comprehension.
‘It was too good to be true,’ thought Jose. ‘Liberating our beloved Cuba from a despotic regime, bringing the murderers to justice, installing a free democracy and becoming fabulously wealthy all at the same time was just too good to be true.’
The MINIT offices evacuated at the first sign of an armed force taking positions across the street. Soon the streets were full of people. First with curious onlookers, then it evolved into a celebratory block party, and within an hour it was pandemonium. Sweaty men with serious eyes and distended veins in their necks were suddenly desperate to join the Free Cubans. They were willing to give anything they had, which was not much, to get a gun.
The MINIT offices held fewer phones and computers than Jose had hoped but it was enough. Luckily a few staffers stayed to throw in their lot with the rebels. They logged on to the Free Cuban website and were soon communicating with them through email. Then the Free Cubans responded with a telephone number for Jose to call. Jose was soon handed a phone. “It’s for you,” said a young MINIT officer whom he had never met.
Jose was wary at first but within minutes the Free Cuban on the other end of the line had him feeling more at ease. Jose was surprised to find out that the Free Cuban was really located in Miami, Florida. The calls had been overwhelming and were being forwarded from Gitmo to other locations around the world.
“Jose,” said the voice on the other end of the line “I have President Joshua Marti on the other line. I’m connecting you now.”
“Hello son,” came an elderly voice, “I hear you are in Ciego de Avila. Good work my boy. God will bless you for your efforts. Be bold, have courage. The Cuban people will help you do the impossible. Have faith in them. Keep order. Be Christlike. Listen to the leadership we have here at Guantanamo. You are under our wing now.” There was a pause.
“Yes sir, thank you sir,” Jose said with solemnity.
“Here is Major Juan Verdecia. He will be your commanding officer.”
“Yes sir, thank you sir.”
The Major was an affable sort and after a flurry of activity every phone in the MINIT offices was occupied receiving instructions from Gitmo. Every computer and printer was busily involved with the task of running a war. Organizational charts and instructions were being downloaded, copied and distributed. It was a race against time. The goal was to give enough instruction before the phone lines were cut. They informed Jose that uprisings were happening all around Cuba. If Jose’s forces could establish a beach head some Free Cuban Forces could possibly be landed with the limited amphibious assets at their disposal.
Free Cuban Armed Forces –
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day plus one. 12:05 AM*]
Elvis quietly shifted in his fox hole and placed the AK47 rifle between his knees pointing at the lid above his head and the sounds just beyond. His trembling hands gripped the trigger. ‘Maybe they don’t even see the lid. Maybe if I just stay quiet…’ his thought was shattered when several bullets smashed through the lid. At least one of the bullets hit his already battered helmet. Elvis fired back shooting through the lid as more enemy bullets impacted his chest, blew off half of his ear and grazed his neck. Elvis stood up in his hole knocking the lid off while firing at a soldier who was on his knees not four feet away. The short, ugly, desperate firefight ended when the Communist’s shoulder was blown apart and his gun fell to his side. Elvis kept firing until the soldier fell. Elvis looked around and saw nothing but had the distinct impression there were others about. He heard some rustling in the brush uphill and a grenade, the old fused top glowing in his night vision, came arching over the brush, bounced and tumbled past the bodies and landed near his foxhole. He ducked back in the hole and pulled his helmet down tight and waited for the explosion. It seemed to take a very long time for that stupid grenade to go off. He had to fight the impulse to stand up and run away till finally it exploded in a thunderous black pall. In a second Elvis jumped out of his hole and ran off into the night just before a new flurry of bullets were sent screaming through the dust cloud after him.
Elvis had broken up the attack on the aid station but that did not mean it was safe. Probably dozens of wounded men would be executed mercilessly if these Communists got over that hill. He ran from the last grenade explosion with bullets flying all around him, or at least it seemed that way. He was gasping for air when he jumped into a shell crater. He had taken two bullets to the chest. The vest stopped both of them. One bullet hit the ceramic plate on the center of the vest and caused him no discomfort at all but the other hit only Kevlar and it felt like it broke one of his ribs. Hopefully it did not puncture a lung. He had trouble catching his breath.
The whole hillside was infested with many more enemy soldiers now than it was just ten minutes ago. ‘Maybe two hundred,’ he thought to himself. His thoughts alternated from how he would keep alive and escape to the thought of his friends and buddies murdered like Gabriel and Boris. For a small moment he closed his eyes, nodded his head forward. “Thy will O Lord, not mine be done” he whispered. No sooner did he finish the sentence when a beautiful, warm feeling flowed down through his chest and filled his belly. He could feel it roil inside of him. His eyes flew open and his backbone literally stiffened. There was no question that he would fight it out. He knew the Lord had communicated with him as surely as he knew anything. He would never have doubted or second guessed it had he lived a hundred years, which of course was not likely. He would be lucky to live a hundred seconds.
Elvis peered over the top of the crater. While it was true that there were numerous Communists on the hillside they were poorly equipped for night fighting. He was a few hundred meters behind the front line and he had seen only one officer with night vision goggles on. The officer was kneeling and looking in the general area of the TRAP gun. The AK47 sights were a little awkward to use with his night vision eyepiece but as he sighted the rifle a couple of times he got used to it. He aimed, Wham! The Officer disappeared along with the goggles. At sixty meters he was sure he hit him. Elvis quickly jumped out of the crater and crawled twenty meters away and laid flat. A few rifle rounds flew blindly over the crater he had just left. The guy who fired them was laying in plain view. It was pathetic. Elvis killed him with one shot then crawled some more. He could crawl and kill like this for a while before he bought the farm but it would not stop the assault. He then remembered the tank with the driver he had killed. He crawled to the edge of a small rise overlooking the tank and saw it was still intact. He crawled toward the tank, stopped, looked and listened a couple of times when he saw a soldier clamber up on top of the tank. The soldier put his right leg in the top hatch and sat on top of the turret. The tanker then raised his left leg to put it into the hatch when Elvis shot him. The body fell backward and hung at an awkward angle with one leg in and one leg out of the hatch. Elvis stood and ran a zigzag pattern the remaining thirty meters toward the tank before dropping again. Two soldiers lay prone behind the tank. One was firing a cut off version of the AK47 into the night. The other had his hand up in the air in a tentative surrender to an unseen enemy. Elvis put three rounds into the one firing then turned the gun toward the other.
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” Yelled the Communist at the top of his lungs.
“Silence,…uh, uh American!” hissed Elvis to shut him up. He moved in closer and whispered. “Get your other hand up.” The soldier obeyed. “You the tank commander?”
The soldier, still lying on his belly silently pointed to the dead man lying next to him.
“I’m the gunner.”
“Get up.” Elvis frisked the soldier while nervously looking around. He took the man’s Makarov 9mm handgun and one of his grenades. “Get up there,” Elvis said, “and get in.”
The gunner got on the tank and started climbing up the turret. Elvis grabbed his pant leg.
“I’ve got a grenadelxxi, I’m pulling the pin,” Elvis said as he flattened the pin wings. He grasped the smooth baseball sized bomb with all four fingers holding the safety lever tightly against the grenade, put his index finger through pin ring and pulled. “I die, you die.”
The man simply stared into the blackness of the night, nodded his head once, continued to climb then disappeared into the tank. Elvis hated the idea of climbing up to the top of that tank. He couldn’t climb in the drivers hatch with a dead man blocking it. The loaders hatch was buttoned down and that left only the commanders hatch. Elvis suddenly remembered how tight a fit it was when he climbed into a captured T62 and T55 tank back in basic training at Guantanamo.
He realized that his vest may make it too tight of a fit to get down that hatch. He pocketed the handgun and started ripping at the Velcro straps that held the vest in place. He finally got the vest off concentrating on his hold of the grenade. He took a couple of quick breaths, made his characteristic growling sound and jumped on the tank. He heard a voice calling out behind him, “hey, did you capture an American?” Elvis did not break stride as he muttered, “yes, over there” and jumped feet first down the hatch. Elvis found himself sitting in front of the Commander’s console with the gunner sitting patiently next to him. Elvis’ helmet and night vision was knocked askew. In the jet blackness he said, “get that hatch closed.”
“Hey, hey!” yelled the voice outside the tank.
The gunner reached up, grabbed the hatch handle and yelled, “Get off the tank, we’re moving out”
“Oh… are you alright?” the inquisitor asked as the gunner slammed the hatch shut.
Through the driver’s open hatch he heard the muffled question, “Where’s the American?”
Elvis, still adjusting his night vision, turned to the gunner and said, “close that hatch too.”
The gunner moved in the exceedingly cramped confines as only one who wants to save his own life can move. The gunner moved his foot pedals and slinked out of his seat like a child sliding out of his high chair. He pushed the driver’s body forward to slump over the controls. He lay upside down on the body of his poor dead friend and facing the hatch, struggled to get it closed. This was a sliding hatch and more difficult to slide back in place especially in his awkward position. As the gunner struggled with it he heard a different voice from outside the tank. This one was more insistent and demanded, “What the blank is going on?”
The gunner yelled “Get the blank out of my way, I’m not tellin’ ya again,” as the hatch finally buttoned down.
The gunner spoke now as if to calm a child’s tantrum. “I will do whatever you say just put the pin back in the grenade”
“Shut up!” responded Elvis. “Get on the radio. You get them to hit this hill with artillery. You make them believe it or you’re a dead man!”
There was a pause. Elvis was just about to add a few more threats when the gunner responded, “I will.”
The gunner grabbed the microphone “Armor three-seven-eight to fire control, armor three-seven-eight to fire control. Fire mission same grid co-ordinates as last mission. We have been beaten back. Enemy still in control of hillside. Fire for effect.”
Another voice crackled on the speaker. “Armor three-seven-eight, this is Captain Vazquez. I’ve got men on that hillside, Commander.”
The gunner, now playing the role with gusto, decided to take a gamble. He knew how far back from the fighting this Captain was likely to be and what a bewildering assemblage of hodge-podge units he was in command of. This tank was pulled from its regular motorized rifle unit and thrown into the assault along with anything else that was mobile and ready to travel. “You’re not here Captain. I am. I’m telling you the enemy has the hill. We need fire support now!”
“Who is this?” crackled the Captain.
“This is tank gunner Sergeant Felix Prieda. Tank commander is dead, Sir. Sniper.”
The Captain posed a question to all within radio range. “Anyone know this Sergeant Prieda?”
Another voice came very faint came through the speaker, “Armor four-two- nine, I know Prieda, Sir. That’s him Sir.”
The Captain tried again. “BMP seven-nine-three, this is CO, Captain Vazquez. Can you confirm the fire mission request? Over”
“BMP seven-nine-three to CO, no sir, we’re stuck on the road. A tank is blocking the road, being cleared now and we’re trying to find a detour. I hear small arms and grenades maybe some enemy mortars on the hill. Heavy casualties Sir.”
There was a long pause then he heard the Captain’s voice again. “Fire mission authorized,” followed by a different voice. “on the way.”
Elvis smiled. It was too good to be true. He had just called in Communist artillery on Communist positions. He turned to the gunner. “Get in the driver’s seat and let’s move out. Go up the hill.”
“I” the gunner paused “I…”
“What is it? What?” demanded Elvis.
“I need the light on. I barely know how to drive this thing,” the gunner said.
“Ok,” Elvis responded in condescending irritation, “go ahead.”
A dim red light clicked on and for the first time the gunner saw Elvis. They were sitting side by side. He looked almost alien to the gunner with the night vision eyepiece turned toward him.
Elvis flipped up the eyepiece and turned toward the gunner, their faces not more than a foot apart. “Well, get moving.”
The gunner grabbed the body of his friend. It had already started to stiffen. With great effort he drug him out of the driver’s compartment. The tank was not built with enough space for an extra body in it. Somehow he shimmied over the body and dropped into the driver’s seat.
The gunner craned his neck around to see the lower half of Elvis’ body sitting in the Commander’s seat directly behind and above him. He could see a Makarov handgun in one hand and he was gripping the grenade in the other.
“Please put the pin back in that grenade,” the gunner said “If I don’t go with you they’re gonna shoot me for calling in that artillery. I’ve got to go with you now. I don’t want to burn in this tank. Put that…”
“Man, you’re a regular chatty Cathy. Shut. Up.” Elvis said in slow, loud staccato, “Drive the tank.” He paused and listened for the artillery over the roar of the engine as the gunner started up the engine. He looked around the interior of the tank. He had wished he paid more attention to the training that was available to all FCAF units regarding Communist vehicles. Even though he got the rudiments of the T62’s operation, the gun sights, loading and firing the gun and driving, he was neither interested in the subject or motivated to take the training seriously. Nothing inside this tank looked familiar to him.
“I don’t hear any artillery yet. Is it coming?” Just then they both heard a low thrumming sound as a large round flew overhead then the impact. More rounds started to fall all around them rocking the tank and pinging shrapnel against its armor. Elvis was still wearing the grenade ring on his finger and decided the gunner’s suggestion a good one. He put the pistol in his pocket and started to put the pin back in, which was like threading a needle in the dark.
The gunner saw him fooling with the grenade “Don’t do that. Just open the hatch and throw it.”
Elvis did so.
The tank lurched slowly around to face downhill and stopped moving. Elvis clumsily fired the coaxial machine gun and tried to control the turret with its old toggle switch. He didn’t hit a thing.
Elvis looked down at the gunner. “I told you to head uphill.”
The gunner flipped off the interior light and said “There is a platoon of BMP’slxxii (armored personnel carriers) behind us. Their seventy three’s (millimeter guns) can kill us from behind. We’ve got to put our frontal armor toward them.”
Elvis remembered the other armored vehicles blocked by the knocked out tanks on the road. They said over the radio that they would clear the road or find a detour.
“Oh, OK, OK get back up here in the gunner’s chair,” Elvis said.
Elvis tried his best to look for the BMP’s but it was extremely awkward trying to see through the vision blocks with his night vision and impossible to see anything through the dust and debris the artillery had thrown into the air. Then he saw it.
“BMP, one o’clock. Fire at him.”
“Not a chance, I’m not shooting my own guys,” said the gunner.
“Is it loaded?”
Elvis used the toggle switch to traverse the turret. “How do you elevate the gun?”
The gunner gave no response. “How!” Elvis angrily yelled.
“The two buttons next to the switch,” the gunner mumbled.
Elvis decided to take a different tack.
“Look,” said Elvis, “you’re now a soldier in the Free Cuban Armed Forces. I am your commanding Officer. I am giving you an order. You know what happens to you when you don’t follow an order?”
“Let me guess, I get shot,” the gunner said with dejected sarcasm.
“I won’t shoot you, they will. Remember, I die, you die. I’m protecting this hill till I’m relieved, that means you too.”
The gunner got into his regular position, armed the gun, then had a feeling of overwhelming revulsion. He just couldn’t fire the gun. He did not know these men in the armored vehicles, they were from another unit. Indeed, he didn’t know anyone on the battlefield except the guys in his tank platoon and they were all dead now. He had no love at all for the retched Communists that ruled him, spied on him, starved him, deprived him and treated him with contempt, but he just could not fire on fellow soldiers.
Through the constant radio chatter both of them could tell that the ruse was over. The screaming of the NCO’s (non commissioned officers) to cease fire, the screaming of the Commanding officer, Captain Vazquez for the gunner Prieda and the artillery stopped raining down.
“Look, I won’t ask you to shoot them. I just want you to load and answer my questions. That’s an order,” said Elvis in a reasonable tone.
Elvis practiced a few seconds elevating and traversing the gun. Luckily it was similar to his TRAP gun in its movements. “Where’s the firing button?”
“Flip the trigger guard and press the red button here,” said the gunner, pointing to the mechanism in front of him.
The most difficult thing now was using the night vision monocular up against the gun sight optics. At first it seemed like a hopeless task. He only caught glimpses of the target as it floated in and out of his viewfinder with the slightest movement. The optics interacted in some way that made the visual image appear as a quarter moon shape to the left of the crosshairs. It reminded Elvis of the time his teacher let him try to observe a star with a small telescope. With the slightest adjustment the star would be lost and he had great difficulty acquiring it again.
“Where do I place the crosshairs at this range?”
“Negative One-point-two meters.”
Elvis depressed the gun and fired. The shell went high by a few millimeters and flew over the personnel carrier. “Reload,” yelled Elvis.
The gunner overrode the commander’s controls, aligned the barrel in load position and ejected the casing. At that same moment Elvis had leaned over with his left hand to touch something he thought were controls when the automatic loader whacked his hand. Just another inch and it would have taken a finger or hand off. The tank struck Elvis as a monstrously dangerous place. An egg shell filled with fuel, explosives and him…and now an automatic loader that could maim him. It smelled like decades of sweat, diesel, grease and steel. Elvis had a strong impulse to get out and run.
Elvis cradled his hand “Ahh! that hurt! A little warning next time!”
The gunner slammed another shell into the breech. “You’re warned,” he said as he pointed the barrel in the general area of the Personnel Carrier. “Fire it.”
Whang! An explosion rocked the tank and it felt like someone had hit Elvis in the chest and ears with a sledgehammer. The BMP had hit the tank with its seventy-three millimeter gun. Except for the ringing in Elvis’ ears it did no damage to the tank as far as he could tell. Elvis acquired the vehicle which was moving to his right and fired. The explosion lifted the BMP off its tracks momentarily like a boxer receiving a body blow. Black smoke and orange fire poured out of it then the ammunition brewed up.
The gunner did so. “You see any more? There are five more BMP’s in that platoon. Stick your head out of the turret and take a look,” the gunner said with a smile in his voice. “And don’t let them get behind us!”
“I think I’m fine right here,” Elvis responded. “You poke your head out,” he mumbled lamely.
Elvis patiently waited, scanning the vision blocks while the gunner took control of the turret and returned it to its loading position.
The gunner loaded and yelled, “You’re up.”
Elvis grabbed the coaxial machine gun handle and traversed the gun looking for a threat to the tank. He found numerous infantry but he was only interested in ones with RPG’s ^lxxiii^(rocket propelled grenades) or night vision equipment. There were dozens of men heading downhill and dozens more heading uphill. The difference was that the men heading uphill obviously had his tank as their objective. Elvis assumed the personnel carriers had deployed their troops with orders to knock out the traitorous tank.
These were better equipped soldiers. Most had night vision and moved with the confidence of an elite unit. Behind the troops, through the smoky darkness loomed a BMP with its infrared spotlight, searching, then another behind and to the right switched on its spotlight. A dull stab of fear struck through Elvis. A response his ancestors would have been very familiar with. The same terror of looking through the mist and seeing two hunting lions looking for you with more of the pride behind them. Elvis had the added bonus of a pack of wolves at his heel as well.
“BMP, eleven o’clock, ‘bout eighty meters,” said Elvis.
“You’re up, shoot it!” yelled the gunner as he scrambled to retrieve another shell from the magazine.
“What’s the elevation?” said Elvis in a tone that was as calm as he could manage.
“Uh, depress one meter.”
Elvis fired the gun. The tank recoiled. The Personnel Carrier exploded. The gunner was barely back in his seat when he started to reload the gun. Elvis saw the men to the front leap from the earth and rush the tank. Then the tank rocked with another explosion. This one was different from the first hit. A duller, less violent one. An RPG.
“Hurry up they’re rushing,” Elvis yelled, not so calmly now.
The gunner slammed in another shell and yelled, “You’re up. They hit the track. I don’t think we can move.”
Elvis swung the turret toward the infantry and unleashed a torrent of bullets, knocking down the brave men and driving the rest to ground. Wham! Another explosion shocked through the tank. This one felt like it broke Elvis’ ankles even though they were cushioned by the dead tank driver’s body. He looked for the next Personnel Carrier only to find the vision blocks were smashed. He looked through gun sight and finally acquired it. He saw the BMP’s gun light up and before he could utter a word of warning his ears were ringing with another explosion, his eye was bruised from the eyepiece and his poor ankles felt like someone had driven spikes through them. The gun sight was still operable and had the BMP still in its sights. Elvis fired the main gun and another Personnel carrier exploded sending flames high into the night sky.
Elvis grabbed the coaxial machine gun and started firing again.
The gunner screamed, “Let me reload.”
Elvis did not respond. He kept firing away. He could not believe this battle. It looked like one of those stupid Soviet propaganda films where the Nazis were falling like harvested wheat. Of course that was only in the mind of the propagandists. This was real. He was mowing down men from inside this steel tank like the movies. He swung the turret from side to side killing with a scythe of destruction. Men were retreating and heading down hill. It looked like he had beaten off this attack but he knew these men would reform within a few minutes and charge back at him.
Elvis saw no targets left to shoot through his obscured night sight even though he knew dozens or hundreds were out there hugging the ground. “Reload.”
The gunner struggled to retrieve another round from the ammunition stowage next to the driver.
“Make it a high explosive, anti personnel type,” Elvis said.
“Oh, would you like a Mojito with that too sir?” the gunner said venomously “You blanking idiot, I know how to load the gun. So did Eli before you …” his sentence was tearfully choked off. “Now I’m using him as a rug,” he mumbled bitterly.
Elvis sat silently as the gunner struggled back into his seat and reloaded. “Your mak’in me nervous boy, don’t make me pull the pin on this grenade.” A grenade he didn’t have.
There was a momentary silence then the gunner said, “You’re up.”
Elvis traversed the turret three-hundred-sixty degrees firing the machine gun at his slightest suspicion. He heard a smaller explosion and turned the turret to find it. It sounded like a mortar. Were they trying to hit the tank with a mortar? In quick succession three more impacted but they were not moving toward the tank. The explosions were coming from the area he had assumed the Communists were assembling to form up another attack. “I think that’s ours,” he said. Elvis reached up and cracked open the hatch. He heard the distinctive sound of distant .308 caliber sniper rifles and the sonic crack of the bullets flying past. It was friendly fire coming from the hilltop. He concluded that the Free Cubans had regained the top of the hill and were pouring fire down upon the Communist troops. The sound was soon lost as the AK47’s barked back in reply.
The tank continued to spit death into the night until the gunner flipped the light switch on and informed Elvis that the ammo was low. The tank had burned through nearly twenty-five-hundred machine gun rounds. From the frustratingly fleeting images Elvis had concluded that the Communists were withdrawing from the hill. He thought he could sense the Free Cuban forces were gathering strength. Then he glimpsed the blazing trail of a Javelin missile through the air. It traveled from the hilltop down to a gully located three hundred meters below him. A fire violently sputtered into life announcing the missile had found another BMP (Armored Personnel Carrier). Both flames and its black oily plume seemed to fight for the same space during their brief existence. Blackness cloaking the flames only to be fought off and pushed away time and again
Elvis instantly said, “That’s it… let’s get out of this thing.”
He swiveled the commander’s periscope to take one last look around them. He pushed open the heavy hatch and shimmied out. Bullets hammered the open hatchlxxiv making loud, dull bell ringing sounds. Bullet fragments peppered his left forearm. He rolled off the tank onto the ground and hugged it. Intense pain shot through his arm. A second later the gunner scrambled off the tank, landed on Elvis and promptly crawled off a short distance into the night. He was breathing heavily with a groaning cry in every breath.
The gunner called out “I… I think…” then came a groan of pain.
Elvis suddenly felt as naked as a turtle without his shell. He crawled around the tank peering into the darkness searching. And there it was, his pile of stuff no more than 15 meters away. His armored vest, gun and ammo. Elvis heard the gunner cry out again but it was now background noise which meant nothing to him. He slithered on his belly the entire distance and right into his vest. His forearm now felt like he had some hornets inside stinging him. The pain was growing more intense but there was almost no blood. Bullets were cracking overhead and still whacking the tank with regularity. Elvis grabbed the rifle and started to crawl back to the tank when it was hit again by a Seventy-three millimeter. The explosion blew out what was left of his eardrums and raised dust for twenty meters around the tank. Just when he could not believe he wasn’t hit by the shrapnel, his left arm stopped working altogether. The pain in his arm had stopped like someone had flipped an off switch. There was no pain at all but his entire arm had become inoperable. Inspecting the arm he found the reason. He was bleeding profusely from his upper arm near his shoulder. He ripped open a Velcro pocket of his armored vest, pulled out his first aid bag, got out the piece of surgical tubing and wrapped it around his arm. Holding one end in his teeth and pulling the other as hard as he could the tube constricted the arm and shut off the supply of blood to the arm. That done, he looked around. The tank did not brew up so he swung the rifle across his back, got on his knees and continued to crawl toward the tank like a three legged dog he once saw. His left arm hung lifelessly dragging his knuckles over the ground.
“Geeyall,” he laughed morbidly as he imagined what he must look like to his buddies looking down on him from above. The thought of friendly troops observing him gave him surge of hope. Maybe he could make it after all. He was sure the gunner was dead but made it over to him anyways. Elvis grabbed the gunner by the shoulder and rolled him over. The gunner’s eyes opened. “Hey,” the gunner said plaintively. “Don’t, I’m bleeding.” He rolled back over in the fetal position holding his leg with a bloody hand.
The gunner had been on the other side of the tank when the seventy-three millimeter hit it, thus saving him from the worst of it.
Elvis moved the gunner’s leg to find the other leg at the thigh drenched in blood.
“Great,” muttered Elvis. “Keep pressure on it.”
He got out his first aid kit again and got a surgical dressing. With the gunner’s help he tied a tourniquet just above the bloody part of the pant leg. He found a stick on the ground, tied it to the knot on the tourniquet and twisted it round and round, cinching the bandage tighter and tighter until the blood flow stopped.
“We’ve got to find a hole,” Elvis said as he looked around. He stood for a second next to the tank looking around then laid next to the gunner.
“Come on, follow me, I see a crater,” said Elvis.
Both men slithered toward the crater on a blackened moonscape. Sticks that were once bushes were the only thing left standing on the hillside. A bullet smashed into the ground raising a small plume of dirt and dust near Elvis’ foot. Elvis clumsily rolled over on his back, fumbled with the AK47 rifle with his one good arm and tried to get a bead on the next round fired at him. But he could see nothing. The Free Cuban snipers were continuing to pour fire down on the Communists, maybe they hit the guy who shot at him. They continued to crawl until the men finally reached the crater and wallowed into it as gracefully as an elephant seal on the beach. Elvis propped the rifle on the rim of the crater and looked around. He noticed some movement on the tank as a Communist soldier tossed a grenade down the open hatch. Elvis fired at the shape but could not tell if he hit anything. The grenade went off with a dull metallic “thunk” sound and the tank caught fire as only tanks could. It illuminated the burned earth in eerie dancing shadows, the strobing sparks looked like flash bulbs taking pictures of a dark and alien world. Elvis thought now was a good time to hunker deep into the shadow of the crater and treat their wounds and did so.
Elvis treated his and the gunner’s wounds expecting any minute to be overrun by the Communists or a grenade to drop in on him. The fear returned. If he could hold on a little longer FCAF units would take back the hill and him with it.
For fifteen long minutes Elvis and the gunner laid there nursing their wounds. Elvis belly crawled to the top of the crater when he saw it coming. A SWORDSlxxv robot clumsily driving itself down from the crest of the hill. Even at a hundred meters the little monster held his undivided attention. It seemed to be coming right toward him. The robot stopped momentarily then tracers streaked from the tracked midget and reached straight out for Elvis. The first short burst snapped inches over his head before he could duck back into the safety of the darkend crater. Elvis suddenly had a sick feeling as he remembered his battered helmet. With his good arm he pulled off the helmet and saw that his IFF (Interrogator Friend or Foe) transmitter was missing. In the dark FCAF soldiers and the SWORDS would not be able to tell him from foe without it. They wouldn’t know where he was. Elvis began to shake uncontrollably.
Guantanamo Free Cuban Sector, firing range.
June 5th 2018. Three months before L day.
The Sergeant stood before Elvis and a hundred others. He was a little nervous and kept referring to his notes as he began his presentation.
“Imagine a soldierlxxvi who never sleeps or eats, never experiences fear, who never complains. Who’s three feet tall, has four eyes and can see in the dark. Who’s so attached to his weapon that it takes a screwdriver and a pair of pliers to take it from him. The SWORDS adds a new dimension to urban conflict. It’s the first weaponized robot and can be armed with everything from a machine gun to a rocket launcher.”
The Sergeant looked up from the scrap of paper and spoke more conversationally. “We shot rockets off this system before we shot forty mm grenades off this system before, anything that can be shot by a human can be shot by this platform.”
He looked down at his notes again and continued in a halting southern accent. “It’s no wonder that Time magazine voted this little robot one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.”
“This smart robot assassin is controlled by a soldier calling the shots from a safe distance from the enemy. A soldier can drive his weapon remotely 800 – 1000 meters away and be able to fire his weapon from the safe distance of obscurity.
There is bank of surveillance cameras to give the soldier a unique view of the battlefield.” The Sergeant walked over to the squat little unit, crouched down and began to pointing out its various features.
“Right now we have five cameras on board. We have one behind the scope so it is your target acquisition sight, we have one that’s a Pan/Tilt. That gives you a 360 degree view. Out front we have a camera that is a wide angle that zooms down in front we have a front drive camera in the rear we have one that’s the same but it’s a rear drive camera.”
The Sergeant stood up and continued. “The optics on board the Sword, you can actually read people’s name tags at 3-400 meters. Whereas the human eye can’t pick that up even with your best binoculars. You can see the expression on his face, what weapon he is carrying, even see if his selector lever is on fire or safe.
The swords is operated from a portable consol using radio frequencies the soldier steers the unit with two joysticks with live video feeds relaying the pictures back to the unit.
At the present time we have a M49 machine gun. But we can put an M240 machine gun which is a larger machine gun we can put an M16 we can put a 50 caliber sniper rifle on it. It’s also been armed with a six barrel 40mm grenade launcher, an anti tank rocket launcher…” He was interrupted by three soldiers who came forward and sat at a long portable table that had three fat looking briefcases on it. They opened up the cases to reveal a bank of very military looking controls. Two joy sticks, bright red covered weapons controls, camera selectors and many more that Elvis could not see clearly. As in a laptop the lid held the screen. It was divided into four sections, each one showing the view from a different camera.
The Sergeant continued. “The robots are virtually silent and can travel at the pace of a running soldier. They run on batteries an can be put in sleep mode for up to seven days before being switched back on. A lethal sniper just waiting for its prey.
Out in the open it’s easy to see the robot coming but its real power lies in urban combat where you won’t see it coming around the corner.
Imagine the fear of seeing a swarm a deadly robots heading straight for you with nobody to shoot back at.
M240 machine gun can fire 700 rounds before it needs to be reloaded. It can select single or auto fire. With such a stable platform the weapon can shoot its weapon with extreme accuracy.”
Elvis instinctively knew this would be an exceptionally dangerous weapon to use around friendly units. It was hard enough to be a TRAP gunner in a single position keeping track of friendlies. It would be quite another thing to have the trap gun running around shooting everything in sight. Nevertheless, he had hoped for a position as one of the SWORDS operators but the competition was fierce and in the end those spots went to U.S. Cuban-American soldiers who were extensively trained at the Picatinny arsenal in New Jersey.
Free Cuban Armed Forces –
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day plus one. 2:32 AM*]
Even with his ears ringing incessantly Elvis could hear the electric tracks of the robot now. It must be very close. He decided that he would not let the ugly beast roll up to the rim of his crater and blast them away rabbits shivering in a hole. He decided to shoot it out with the thing.
Just when he rolled over on his stomach in an attempt to get into firing position he heard someone in a loud muffled whisper say “Salt!”
Elvis stopped and listened. “Salt!” came the voice again more urgently in a loud bellow.
It was the identification code word for this operation. Elvis temporized with “Uhh” as he searched his brain for the correct response. No sooner was it out of his mouth when he knew that was the exact wrong thing to say.
“Uhh, Lake City” responded Elvis. They were here. He was safe…well, safer anyway.
The voice said, “Hold your fire.”
Free Cubans, no more than two dozen, reoccupied positions on the hill while a few more waded out into the black night in pursuit of the withdrawing Communist forces led by two of the SWORDS units. The sound of single rifle shots that spoke the language of precision punctuated the night. A Free Cuban mortar round would fall now and then which bespoke of a scarcity of ammunition. Elvis fearfully anticipated a return of the Communist artillery but it did not come. A medic now treating him and his newfound prisoner/comrade bitterly said that the ‘Brethren’ had cut loose a few of their precious TACMlxxvii missiles and may have neutralized the Communist guns. Elvis just wanted to get off this hill. As soon as the medic was done with him he got up to leave.
The gunner said “Hey, wait for me, take me with you. You gotta take me with you!”
Elvis sighed and sank back to hug the edge of the crater. He started mumbling curses as his head hung heavily on his shoulders.
The gunner added, “You gave me your word.”
Elvis turned to the Medic who seemed to be a disagreeable stocky little fellow and said, “I need two guys to carry this guy back to the aid station.”
That request was all the excuse the cantankerous little medic needed to lay into someone.
“You need! You need!” the medic yelled. “No one is going to cart this POW around. In case you haven’t noticed we’re in the middle of a battle here. We’ll probably be thrown back off this hill again any minute now. We’ll leave him here, let the Commies have him back. I don’t want him.”
It was a good thing Elvis was nearly two hundred pounds of muscle and spent months regularly hauling around over one hundred pounds of equipment. He threw the gunner over his shoulder and, cursing all the while, headed for the crest of the hill and the aid station just beyond. His body armor had shifted to the side exposing his lower back but he just didn’t have the energy to put the gunner down arrange it properly and pick him up again. He tried to stay in as much cover as he could which was nearly gone but as he approached the crest of the hill the barren area held no cover at all. He trundled up the slope to reach the crest passing the body of the Communist Officer he had silenced mid-sentence. He knew it was the worst possible place to be, silhouetted on the crest of a hill. Elvis began to mutter curses with every breath as his pace quickened. The crack of a bullet sounded in his ear. By the sound of it Elvis knew it came within inches of his shoulder. Then he felt his belly literally explode in a blinding pain. He continued trudging along another twenty meters, vomiting and groaning. Three or four more bullets cracked in the night around him but the overwhelming pain and instant sickness he felt drove the outside world into a fuzzy and hazy other place, beyond his caring. The moment he reached the cover of the back side of the hill he slid the gunner off his shoulder and dropped to the ground.
At the aid station Elvis laid there as the Medic examined him. The guy had a camera mounted on his head gear and an earpiece in his ear. He could hear a doctor’s voice on a speaker who was obviously observing the camera image asking questions and giving orders. Elvis knew that the Free Cuban medical field units were second to none in the world. The way the medical team was hovering over him and working in urgent seriousness he knew he was in trouble and he was thankful for them.
The United States had no problem at all rendering medical care to the Free Cubans. In other aspects of support, especially aggressive attacks on the Communist nation, Americans seemed hesitant and unsure. There was no ambiguity at all when it came to the task of saving lives medically. Money seemed to flow like a river when the Americans committed to a job. If money could do it, it was going to be done.
Bags of fluid hung above him flowing into his arm. He could tell they were getting ready to medivac him out. The crushing pain made him want to curl up on the bloody cot while the medics tried to hold him down. Elvis thought it was over for him. He was not going to make it. ‘Damn Castro, damn the Communists,’ he thought. ‘All I wanted was to be left alone, left in peace.’
“Hey, take care of the Commie tank gunner.” Elvis said in groaning breathlessness. “He’s on our side. He knocked out three BMP’s and saved our bacon,” he lied. “Make sure he’s registered as a free Cuban and put that in his notes will ya?”
“Sure Elvis, no problem. We’ll take care of him,” responded the Medic.
The pain meds took effect and soon Elvis seemed to float pleasantly on marshmallow clouds. He had no recollection of the medivac helicopter ride to Gitmo. He arrived at the Air Force Theater Hospital set up at Guantanamo. As in the Theater Hospitals in Iraq, it had the most sophisticated state of the art medical equipment ever assembled in the history of military medicine. It had a full pharmacy, three cat-scans, x-rays, sonograms, a blood lab, three surgical suites, four intensive care units and surgeons covering twenty different surgical specialties. The surgeons could consult with a specialist back in the states in real time through an audio/visual link. Except for the Kevlar body armor the staff wore and the occasional mortar explosion, it had all the trappings of a real hospital, although cramped. The place was bustling with activity. The cots were full, mostly of Communist troops.
All this was lost on Elvis however. He would not remember the pre-op, post-op or the Lockheed Martin C-5B galaxy Strategic Transport lxxviii ride to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. For the three hour flight he and forty-one other wounded, mostly communist soldiers, were in the care of the Air Transport Medical Team from Ramstein, Germany and the Critical Care Team from Guantanamo. In the airborne ICU the patients were given medications, oxygen and IV fluids. Once a soldier made it on the transport they knew they would survive. Although many critical cases had been transported from Iraq over the years and now from Cuba, there had never been a death associated with a flight.
Elvis finally became lucid twenty-six hours after having been wounded, waking up in clean sheets and feeling like a gutted fish.
“Elvis” the voice sounded familiar though muffled through his blown out eardrums. “Elvis.” Elvis rolled his head toward the voice. There in the bed next to him was the Commie gunner smiling from ear to ear with a pile of empty plastic pudding containers strewn about his hospital table and his leg in an elevated cast. Elvis just groaned and closed his eyes.
End of Chapter 3
Cuba Chapter 4
*Ciego de Avila. Ministry of the Interior Headquarters *
October 2, 2018 L Day plus One
Ciego de Avila fell with riotous celebrations. The airport however, saw fierce fighting. An unorganized mob of armed men crashed against the disciplined guards holding the colonnaded terminal building like waves on a beach. The tide of humanity slowly rose and eventually engulfed the defenses. Night fell on a city free at last from the smothering hand of oppression.
Throughout the city thin streams of black smoke now struggled into the calm morning sky. The celebrations of the night before evolved into the grim industry of a determined people. Those still loyal to the Communists kept to themselves and were strictly left alone.
The rebels had a great many advantages at their disposal. One was the tremendous quantity of weapons stored at various locations throughout the city and its environs. The other advantage was the many experienced volunteers who were well acquainted with the weapons and how to use them. All of them, including many women, had served in the Armed Forces proper or in one of Cuba’s paramilitary units. By the afternoon scouts sent out from Ciego de Avila linked up with Corporal Garcia Lopez . The Railroad tracks were repaired and the entire train load of equipment and captured troops proudly roared into Ciego de Avila before night fall.
Corporal Garcia Lopez walked up the steps of the MINIT headquarters to find Jose standing at the top of them wearing a broad smile. The tanks sitting on the rail cars were the most beautiful thing Jose had ever seen. They were badly needed to the north if they were going to hold the gains they made over the last twenty-four hours. Corporal Garcia Lopez let it be known that he was not about to turn over his command to anyone, especially a punk kid. Jose simply led him into the map room and gave him all the information he had. While they spoke, careful note was taken of the number of captured enemy troops, equipment and armaments that were on the train. The time of its arrival was noted and all the incidental information necessary to file an action report was gleaned from Lopez and his subordinates. When the FCAF committee, at sometime in the future, convened to divvy out shares they would be asking for these reports. Every action, place, time and the names people involved needed to be carefully written down. These reports would be the main tool the FCAF committee would use to determine who would get what reward.
“The Free Cubans have taken Guantanamo City and are pushing west. They say they plan on being here within a week.” Jose reported to Corporal Lopez.
“What?” responded Lopez, “what is that, four-hundred, five-hundred kilometers? How is that possible! They are dreaming.”
Jose scanned his notes hanging from a chalkboard. “Yes, four hundred-eighty-eight kilometers. They said any ground we hold till they get here is one-hundred percent ours. It will belong to us.”
Corporal Lopez was fatigued by thirty six sleepless hours. He looked over his shoulder at Jose with contempt. “I’m not doing this for the money, are you?”
Jose was taken aback. “Well, I dunno, it’s not the main reason I’m doing this but it nice to know they appreciate what we are doing and sacrificing.” Jose smiled suddenly realizing for the first time how exhausted this Corporal really was. “I’m just giving you the information I have, my brother.”
Turning to the map again Jose continued, “They asked us to try to hold some bridges and keep them intact if we can for their push to the Capital. We’ve sent out teams to hold the bridges and prepare them for demolition if we have to blow them. The bridge just out of town here,” he said pointing to a spot on the map” “the bridges near Ciro Redondo and the bridges just west of Moron. Gitmo thinks the rail junction and highway at Marti is in our hands, or at least some rebel force is blocking them.”
Corporal Lopez looked at the map and said, “Yes, the terrain is much better for defense there at Marti. Only one rail line to block. Most of the heavy stuff must come in by rail. Castro just does not have the gas and trucks to transport by road. What about to the west of us? Any bad guys coming our way?”
Jose came in close and spoke in hushed tones. “The main government forces are centered in Santa Clara, one-hundred-sixty kilometers west of us. There is a convoy heading this way.” Jose picked up a piece of paper covered in scribbling and read “One-hundred-seventy-eight vehicles. They should be around Cabaiguan right now. That’s about eighty kilometers out.” Jose paused and seemed to be done talking.
Corporal Lopez cocked his head to one side “And?”
Jose seemed to be distracted looking at the map. He looked at Corporal Lopez as though he forgot Lopez was in the room. He spoke rapidly now. “We are sending a group out with mines and whatever, to slow them down. We need some of your tanks there.”
The Corporal had dozens of questions streaming though mind, like how on earth Jose knew how many vehicles there were in the convoy and its location but first they needed to get a defense plan together. “What’s the situation up in Moron and to the east of us?”
“There is fighting in Moron but I think we have the upper hand there. The mascot of the city is a chicken you know,” the corner of Lopez’ mouth widened slightly in a grim smile.
Jose’s hand swept broadly across the map. “Out east of us I have no idea. Some fires were reported in Camaguey. That’s all I know about that. I expect the government to hold Camaguey until we push them out.”
Lopez looked at Jose quizzically and started to laugh sardonically “Push them out?”
Jose’s brow furrowed “Yes.” He responded with an edge of anger. “Push them out! We will attack and keep attacking. God will provide the way to victory my friend. All we have to do is to trust him. Joshua Marti told me that himself.”
The Corporal raised his hand and Jose quieted. “First things first. We need to defend ourselves against that convoy. I will lead a platoon of tanks out to greet them, I’m going to take….”
Jose slowly shook his head and smiled “You cannot. You are now in charge of the entire military operations here in Ciego de Avila. I have no military leadership experience. You do. You need to head it up. Will you do it?”
Corporal Lopez responded with a smile of surprise and a nod of his head “Well, yes”. He then started giving nonstop orders to the make-shift staff surrounding them.
F-15 Fighter Aircraft, Freedom One
Guantanamo Free Cuban Sector, Cuba
October 2, 2018 “L” Day plus One
“Freedom One and Freedom Two, we’ve got thirteen bogies leaving their coverage. You’re cleared for takeoff.”
The two aircraft had been waiting for ten minutes to meet the new threat forming up over Santa Clara. Cuco would have preferred to hit them ASAP, even if that meant going inside their protective umbrella of Anti-Aircraft and SAM batteries, rather than wait for them to gather strength.
The top brass were skittish since losing both of their Phantom F-4 aircraft. Both shot down by enemy fighters. The game would be over if they lost their two remaining F-15’s.
The Air war proved to be a much messier affair than the Free Cubans had hoped.
The initial bombing raids had not won them supremacy of the air. Close, but no cigar.
Since that first attack the Free Cubans had harried the last remaining base of Santa Clara but could not stop its operations.
Both aircraft rolled down the runway wingtip to wingtip and rocketed into the sky heavily laden with three external fuel tanks, a conformal fuel tank and all the Air-to-Air missiles they could hang on the planes.
They turned to the west when the dump from the AWACS radar aircraft popped up on their screens.
“(Expletive), they’re going supersonic,” said Cuco.
“Yeah, and they’re jamming heavily,” added Izzy.
Cuco turned toward the signal’s bearing.
On the interplane frequency Cuco ordered “Lets light ‘em up gentlemen,” at the same time using hand signals, ordered his wingman to assume a combat spread formation, slightly high, slightly behind and to the leader’s right.
Cuco pulled his nose to the sky and jammed his throttle to zone-five afterburner. Both aviators were pushed back into their seats as eight gallons of fuel a second were dumped into the burner cans creating a flame a hundred feet long behind the Eagle.lxxix Even in a steep climb it wasn’t long before the two F-15’s approached their self imposed speed limit of Mach 1.1 for the external fuel tanks.
In truth, they did not expect the Communists to mount such a big raid from the crippled airbase. Had the base not been hit by Freedom One on that first night, the Free Cubans would have been in real trouble.
At the first indication that Santa Clara was mounting a big raid Freedom One’s ground crew unloaded the JSOW bombs destined for the enemy base and loaded six Phoenixlxxx long range air-to-air missiles and two AMRAAMS. The FCAF got a great deal on the Phoenix missiles because the U.S. forces had retired them. The $477,000 missiles were just sitting in storage waiting for the propellants to go bad. With a few modifications they fit nicely on the pylons that usually carried the radar guided Sparrow or AMRAAM missiles.
The ground crew moved like a pit crew at the Indianapolis speedway. They trained hard to be able to rearm and refuel the fighters even faster than the Israeli crews, who were the fastest in the world.
At forty-thousand feet and the extreme range of 115 miles from the main enemy formation the F-15’s fired off a total of ten Phoenix missiles nearly simultaneously. Each one independently targeted.
Two Mig-23’s were high and accelerating past Mach 2, well ahead of the other planes. They were playing the role of interceptor. Cuco chose to fire the missiles at this extreme distance because he did not want get within the interceptor’s missile range. The Pheonix missiles accelerated to over forty-eight-hundred kilometers per hour. With a closing speed of over two kilometers per second the interceptors were in a hard place. They would have to slow considerably if they wanted to maneuver and try to counter the missile but they would not have the time. One kept up his speed and climbed while the other did the equivalent of slamming on the brakes and punching out as soon as his speed fell below five-hundred knots. The climber would die. The bailer would survive. One hundred feet in front of the leading Mig, at a mind boggling closure of a little over two-thousand meters per second the missile exploded. The explosive accelerated outward at eight-thousand four hundred meters per second. This in turn propelled the shrapnel toward the aircraft at 75% of the explosive speed for a total closure of eight-thousand three hundred meters per second or 9,077 miles per hour. At this speed a fleck of paint from the missile would be sufficient to pierce and ignite the aircrafts fuel tanks. The blast wave hit and destroyed the Mig the smallest of moments before the fiery particles did.
The other Migs scattered like sheep with their tails on fire -- chased by wolves. Only two more aircraft were brought down from the eight remaining missiles mostly because the extreme range from which they were fired and the heavy electronic jamming. Most of the Migs banked hard one-hundred-eighty-degrees and lit their afterburners. AWACS could see some of the planes jettison bombs or external fuel tanks in their headlong dash for life. The missiles were in their coasting phase and were slowing considerably by the time they got anywhere near the speeding aircraft. The raid was disrupted. Most would have to refuel before continuing whatever sortie they had planned.
When the last of the missile flight timers ran out Cuco radioed, “Target down radar, target down radar.”
The ground controller at Guantanamo, through redundant uplinks, replied, “Range is clear. Freedom One and Freedom Three you are clear to engage at your discretion.”
“Acknowledged, Control. Freedom Three, you have me in sight?”
Izzy scanned the area with LADAR and detected two leakers streaking toward them very fast and very low. They must have been very low indeed because on his regular radar they were nearly invisible and could have easily been missed.
“Control, Freedom One has bandit…”
“Acknowledged, Freedom One,” the ground radar controller interrupted. “We are getting only weak returns. Stand by.” Gitmo was sifting through the information passed on by the U.S. Radar plane. The AWACS radar operators were frantically switching radar modes trying to refine the intruder’s radar information when one of the aircraft disappeared completely. The other Mig popped up and locked up the F-15’s and fired two missiles.
With the enemy plane’s radar active Izzy could now see it was a Mig-23 and was capable of firing any of the newest and deadliest missiles. The Mig was holding a steady course keeping his radar on the target as his missile ran it down. Izzy instantly released one of his two remaining Pheonix missiles. In the missile’s nose it carried its own radar and was now completely independent which left the F-15 free to evade. The burly one thousand pound missile went after the Mig like a bulldog after a pussycat. The F-15 released countermeasures and bugged out like a bat out of …
“He broke (radar) lock, he’s running,” Cuco reported to Izzy who was busily countering the missile.
“Vampires (enemy missiles) are veering off,” Izzy responded.
The Mig pilot had the tough choice of maintaining his course and going head to head with the Pheonix missile or breaking off and trying to survive. His wingman had just plowed into the ground moments before which induced him into attacking at this extreme range. He had had enough. He checked his altimeter to make sure he was underneath the Communist ground based radar and would not be seen by any other Mig. There was no sense bailing out only to be shot by a firing squad. He throttled back and banked hard to bleed off airspeed then ejected. His chute was still in the process of opening completely when the Mig-23 exploded mid-air like a bomb. He had made it. He survived. The MiG pilot landed and headed for the Central Highway A1 and the approaching FCAF units.
Cuco checked to make sure his MASTER ARM SWITCH was OFF then radioed,
“Freedom Three, maintain visual spacing and take the lead. Check nose is cold.” That was a command to check that his weapons were safed as well.
“Acknowledged, Freedom One, I have you in sight, at your four o’clock, high. My nose is cold. Leaving high patrol.”lxxxi
“Rodger.” Cuco looked up and to the right and saw his wingman, right where he said he’d be. “I have you in sight, Freedom Three. I’ve got two more bandits, one at two o’clock, thirty klicks, low and fast. Do you have him on your radar?”
“Affirmative, One,” said the wingman.
“Designate as bandit One. You are clear to engage bandit One. I will take high patrol and keep an eye on bandit Two now at eighty klicks.”
Bandit Two was too far away to be in effective cover position for Bandit One but he looked like he could be a player in this one. The Mig patrolled the outskirts of the fight ring menacingly. He may have been planning to fire missiles at extreme range as Freedom Three closed the distance on Bandit One or join some friends and make a high speed dash into fray.
Freedom Three tried to induce the Mig into a high speed stern chase and a possible gun kill but ended up using a precious AMRAAM missile on it. A quick, clean kill.
Freedom Three then went supersonic after Bandit Two but the Bandit kept his distance and retreated back under the protective umbrella of Communist SAMs (Surface-to-Air Missiles) positioned in and around Santa Clara. The last remaining Communist airbase was growing into a veritable fortress. A hundred or more SAM sites were in operation there and the number was growing as the anti-aircraft units trickled in from all over the island.
Freedom Three was sent to return to Gitmo to rearm and reload while a nervous Cuco and Izzy patrolled the airspace between the bad guys and forward elements of the FCAF units.
Half way home Freedom Three was redirected to intercept a flight of three Mi-24 Hind Helicopterslxxxii flying out of Holguin. Apparently they were to be supported by the air armada the F-15’s had just broken up and driven off. Stupid move, to fly a helicopter without air cover. Gitmo could only guess what its objective was. The American E-8 Joint STARSlxxxiii (surveillance and Targeting Radar System) ground-reconnaissance aircraft picked up the helicopters before they got fifty feet off the ground and passed on the info to Gitmo. Freedom Three rolled in to gun the helicopters. They scattered. They were very heavily armed helicopters but not with weapons that would help them very much in a dogfight with a fighter aircraft. The F-15 hit the first helicopter at a distance of a mile. The Eagle killed it dead, blowing apart the pilot, gunner and the eight troops it carried. The helicopter was fully ablaze while its rotors kept it aloft. It slowly cantered to its left then crashed and tumbled onto the flat and barren landscape below. The F-15 used over half of its nine-hundred-and-forty rounds to do it. In two more passes it killed another as it was attempting to land and sent the third home trailing smoke.
North invasion force, Guantanamo City, Cuba October 2, 2018.
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day plus One 5:00 AM*]
The Captain had nearly chewed Ozzy’s ear off. It was a good sign though. If he meant to bust Ozzy down and replace him he would have done it already and spared himself all the yelling. He was told that his unit would not ‘wade out’ into the middle of the enemy when artillery could do the job with no casualties. He had better exercise more control over his men or the Captain would find someone who would control them. Gitmo would not squander their most valuable asset because some hotshots wanted to win the war all by themselves.
Ozzy in turn chewed out his own team and threatened to take Boitel off the line.
Boitel was nearly in tears. “I’m sorry Sarge, I’ll do whatever you say. I’m gonna be very careful from now on. No more hot doggin, I promise. Only don’t send me back. I can’t go back. I belong here with the guys.”
Ozzy was completely defused with Boitel’s repentance. He wanted to put his arm around him and tell him it was ok. He had spearheaded a great victory. They had blown through the defenses that took Castro’s Eastern Army months to prepare. They were moving so fast the Communists could not retreat in an orderly fashion and they were taking prisoners faster than they could handle them.
Ozzy jutted his jaw and simply said in his gruffest of voices, “Just don’t do it again.”
Dawn broke over a smoking city well under the control of the Free Cubans. Soviet era tanks and BMP’s littered the rubble-strewn streets. This is the place Castro had planned to stop the Free Cubans. This was the city into which he poured every asset he could. It was to be his launching point for the invasion to finally rid himself of this “cancer” that had sprung up in the feted Guantanamo swamp.
It may have seemed like a cancer to Castro but it was the burning fire of freedom that was now spreading throughout the island nation.
FCAF vehicles charged up the main highway to Santiago de Cuba, eighty-six kilometers to the west, where only sporadic fighting took place. By noon they made one-hundred and seventy-seven kilometers to Bayamo. Nothing but joyous crouds greeted them there. The troops welcomed the display but it slowed them down as much as the fighting did in Santiago de Cuba.
General Zip Petra decided to bypass the next major city of Holguin. The trip was uneventful except for an attempted enemy air attack that never arrived. The Communists took an inordinate amount of time forming up near their Santa Clara base. How they got up any planes at all was a mystery since all their runways were cratered. Maybe they had used an adjacent highway to take off from. Taking off from a highway was one thing. Landing a heavy aircraft on an unreinforced roadway was another. In any event the FCAF F-15’s had given them a good shellacking so they probably did not have to worry about landing too many Communist planes, Zip thought.
By nightfall the Free Cuban armored units rolled into Las Tunas for a total gain of two-hundred and fifty-three kilometers in a twelve hour period. The troops rested and refueled for four hours when they were off again. The road was clear all the way to Camaguey. Rebel forces had control of Marti and the surrounding areas. Those very same Rebel forces, a ragged band of Freedom Fighters, happily joined the powerful convoy. The Free Cubans made another one-hundred-twenty-five kilometers that night to the outskirts of Camaguey.
*44 Km West of Ciego de Avila. Majagua, Cuba *
October 2, 2018 L Day plus One
The Communist convoy had gotten hopelessly jammed as the divided highway abruptly stopped and funneled down to a poorly maintained two lane road. The dark ribbon of road slashed through a high sea of sugar cane. From the road the fields appeared as a jungled mass of vegetation, no more thoughtfully spaced than a field of grass. But upon closer inspection the plants were indeed carefully spaced, offset from each other but not in rows. A man could hide successfully just three or four plants away from the road.
This stretch of road had been a busy hive of activity just one hour ago. Dozens of cars and trucks carrying the rebels from Ciego de Avila disgorged their comrades and their weapons into the cane fields, then drove back to a safe hiding spot nearly a kilometer away. The footprints were carefully smoothed and the cane field now looked deserted and lonely.
Jesús Zamora was twenty-six years old. He worked as a repairman on radios, antennas, telephones and telephone lines. He was also a veteran as were most of the Rebel participants in this ambush. When word was passed around for volunteers for this mission Jesús had commandeered and loaded a truck with all the mines he could find. If they wanted the mines they would need someone who knew how to skillfully place them, and he was the guy.
Jesús placed over fifty MON-50lxxxiv antipersonnel mines along a stretch of road about a kilometer long. Further down the road he dropped off another dozen or so and kept a few in reserve in his foxhole. Hopefully the rebels would have enough know how to set them up properly, or if they did not, enough sense to leave them alone. These mines were at least thirty years old. The electrical firing device was notoriously unsafe. They were known to prematurely detonate. Jesús would never connect the wires to the remote terminal more than one second before the moment he wanted to detonate the mine.
Communist trucks, armored personnel carriers and tanks still on their semi-truck transports moved slowly along the black asphalt road. Irregular transports like converted cattle trucks filled with wary soldiers were interspersed amongst the slower moving BMP’s.
The long line of mines were spaced about twenty meters apart standing upright on their four extended legs or attached to the stalks of the sugar cane. The deadly rounded faces pointed toward the road. Inside each mine were seven-hundred steel balls and C-4 explosive. Each mine had a electrical wire running back and tapped into a main wire which in turn ran back to Jesús inside his hole forty meters behind the line of mines. Inside the fox hole Jesús had a car battery that would provide the power necessary to detonate the long array of mines. He did not have the time to conduct the usual circuit test but this array, although not this long, had been well tested in the past. It would have been better to have each mine independently operated by a soldier who knew how to do it. But to hand all these deadly mines over to men who did not know what they were doing had disaster written all over it. He now regretted just dropping off the dozen or so mines to men who may have had no idea how to use them.
Jesús heard but could not see the heavy vehicles on the road. The loud, deep growling of the large engines made his heart beat wildly, like it would jump right out of his chest. He was to be the initiator of the ambush and he had to do it by sound alone. Long before the column reached the pressure mines that had been buried to block the road he heard an explosion about half a kilometer away. His guess was one of the anti-personnel mines were prematurely detonated before the convoy was fully inside the kill zone. He had no choice now but to detonate the mines before the enemy had time to take defensive positions. He connected the black wire then touched the red wire to the terminal. Before his mind could register that he had indeed completed the circuit the world exploded in dust, debris and fire.
His Rebel comrades, most he did not know, raced past him running headlong toward the road carrying a rifle and an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) before he got out of his hole he heard the familiar “ThuuKuuu” sound of the RPG’s being fired, the impacts against the armored vehicles, and the ensuing conflagrations. By the time he had grabbed his rifle and joined the men at the road it looked like it was nearly over. Every vehicle was ablaze and wounded men were limping, crawling or being dragged away from them.
Jesús estimated about thirty-two vehicles were burning. Most of the column trailed far behind the stricken and burning jumble and Jesús could hear the Communists putting out a barrage of fire at his poor comrades at the very end of the ambush line.
Far down the road he could see a tank coming off its transport and start roaring down the side of the road at them. Then a group of large armored vehicles seemed to mass and move forward down the road toward him. Jesús looked into the smoldering sugar cane and noticed spots where the mines did not explode. He ran over to where his mine should be and with a little difficulty found an unexploded mine. He carefully switched off the arming switch and disconnected the wire. He ran back to the road and started to order his comrades about. They gathered up three more unexploded mines. Jesús told the men to form a line perpendicular to the advancing Communists and dig in.
Rebel mortar fire rained down upon the advancing Communists but it had no effect on the tanks and BMP’s. To add to their mounting problems there was almost nothing of use to the Rebels on the burning vehicles except for some ammunition. The Rebels fell back from the advancing Communists and were quickly assembled into Jesús’ line of defense. The rebels were still lining up in their positions when the first tank approached along side the road. Jesús went along the line kicking men and ordering them to come along. He quickly repeated the plan of attack over and over as more men accumulated.
Communist soldiers cautiously walked along the sides of the advancing tank hoping the Rebels had fled. One of them froze in terror as he looked at a stalk of sugarcane that had a mine on it about eye level. He cried out a warning. Two seconds later the mine exploded sweeping the soldiers off of their feet and setting the T-55’s external fuel tanks afire. Rebels raced out of the sugar cane in pairs. The first man firing his AK-47 wildly and his buddy shouldering and firing an RPG into the tank. The first three teams were cut down by the tank but not before they fired two rockets into the tank with the only discernable effect being a blown off track. More RPG’s streaked from the cane field and into the tank. One hit the thinly armored side between the road wheels and into its internal fuel tank. In less than a second the tank was sitting in a pool of its own burning fuel unable to move. Fifty meters behind the burning tank a BMP armored personnel carrier fired into the cane field cutting down more rebels. Some took cover amongst the wrecked vehicles and some dove into the nearest foxhole. Jesús dove for cover and landed on top of a guy in a long but very shallow hole. It looked like a poorly dug grave. The guy was inert and it took Jesús less than a second to roll the corpse on its side and take its place close to the dirt. He was literally face to face with the dead man as large millimeter rounds cracked overhead. The man looked familiar. He lived on the other side of town or maybe outside of town. Jesús rarely saw him. Jesús would see him from time to time riding his bike. The guy looked like he was asleep. Jesús expected him to wake up any second and would have to apologize for taking over the hole. But the guy never woke up. Nearby the body lay an RPG ready to go. Jesús threw the rocket over his shoulder and headed out to his original hole which lay thirty or so meters in front of the ragged rebel line. It was odd that Jesús knew exactly where he was in the endless dense cane field. His brain was so clear, his memory so sharp and time so slow in battle that it was an entirely new experience. To his surprise four men followed him and were puzzled when Jesús jumped in his hole. They hit the ground, mumbled something to each other and turned on their bellies to head back to their holes.
“No, wait. Do any of you know how to use one of these mines?” Jesús held up an anti-personnel mine. They all quietly shook their heads no. “You there,” Jesús said, “stop hitting that cane stalk. It’s moving the top leaves. They can see that.”
Only one of the men had an RPG. “Listen up! Any of you guys know how to use the RPG?” a couple nodded their heads affirmatively. Jesús wrestled the rocket off of his back and handed it over to the group. He was happy to transfer the responsibility of it to someone else. It was not because he didn’t know how to use it. He was familiar with its operation. But the life expectancy of someone using one today would be short and Jesús wanted to live. That was the drive that made mines so appealing to him, survival. He secretly considered himself a coward. His father told him that many times. “Worthless cowering dog,” his drunken father would endlessly growl. Jesús accepted the label and internalized it as only a child raised with the notion could. He may be a coward he thought but he was responsible for destroying more enemy vehicles, equipment and killing and wounding more enemy soldiers today than an entire regiment could have.
The BMP (Communist Armored Personnel Carrier) was slowly rumbling through the sugar cane behind a screen of Communist soldiers walking ahead of it. Other armored vehicles were moving toward the front of the burning column.
Jesús and his team moved swiftly and silently through the cane toward the sound of the BMP. Jesús stopped, placed a mine and started unraveling the forty meters of line he would need to detonate it remotely. He hooked up the mine and placed it about waist high on a cane stalk. Jesús ran back to the others hurriedly digging a hole in the soft earth to protect them from the coming blast.
“You know what to do,” Jesús said to the others. The sound of the BMP shifted toward the road. It was no longer coming directly at them. “Ahh!” he said in exasperation. “I’ve got to move the mine. Everyone stay here. We’re still going to detonate it. We’re just going to run a little farther to hit the BMP that’s all. Stay here!” With that Jesús ran to the mine. He pointed the mine toward the roaring sound and turned to run back to the others. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw movement which made him run all the faster. Bullets started to cut down leaves and stalks around him. He hit the dirt and crawled the rest of the way. He dove into the hole, grabbed the detonator, attached the wires and hit the plunger. Nothing happened. He hit the switch over and over, still nothing. He threw off his pack and dug out a bag containing another mine. He grabbed the new firing system out of it and started to hook it up. He imagined that the Communist foot soldiers were past the mine now and would soon see the wire leading to it. The other men were urgently complaining about the mishap but Jesús didn’t pay attention to them. He was too busy. He hit the new plunger and was surprised, as he always was, when the mine went off.
North invasion force, Guantanamo City, Cuba October 3, 2018.
[* “L” Day or Liberation Day plus Two. 5:30 AM*]
The FCAF units blew through opposition almost as fast as it could drive. It was obvious that they were not interested in occupying a town or city in the usual sense. They would break the backbone of the Government forces and let the Cubans themselves hold their own towns and cities. The sun would rise in less than two hours. Most of the exhausted FCAF troops lay in hurriedly dug scrapes in the ground. The armored vehicles formed walls of sorts around the sleeping men. On the vehicles wary gunners kept their binoculars on the distant horizon alert for trouble.
General Zip Petra sent a messenger into the city of Camaguey under a flag of truce with the hope of averting any more bloodshed and delays. All roads seemed to lead to Camaguey and bypassing it would be problematic. The messenger had trouble convincing the Commander of the Central Army headquarted in the city that FCAF troops were indeed at the gates of the City and in force. General Petra told the messenger to hand the portable radio to the commanding Communist General and began a long discussion.
Three hours later FCAF troops assaulted the first line of resistance the communists put up. The assault followed the familiar pattern of artillery barrages and movement. After his rather amiable discussion with his counterpart Zip Petra had the impression that the Communists would put up a nominal defense for the purpose of saving face. In the end he hoped it would prove to be far less costly than the battle for Guantanamo City. It had to be. The headlong drive depleted every resource the Free Cubans had -- ammunition, fuel, vehicle maintenance, and the energy of the fighting men. They had at least two-hundred-thousand gallons of fuel they could use waiting for them in Ciego de Avila safely in the hands of friendlies, but only if the friendly forces could hold the City. They would have to go through Camaguey to get there.
It seemed that that fire control was putting on their own ‘shock and awe’ show on for the benefit of the enemy troops holding Camaguey. The profligate expenditure of shells, rockets and ammo the Free Cubans were using put a pit in Zip Petra’s stomach. He gave the assault another hour before he would have reassess the situation. Maybe he would have to reign in the artillery and go a little slower. Now that he was committed to the fight bypassing the city was no longer an option. There was no turning back. The unofficial motto of FCAF would continue to be “We are impossible to resist and impossible to dislodge.”
In the end he did not have to reassess anything. The Free Cubans pierced the front line and ravaged the soft underbelly of the Communist forces in Camaguey. The front line proved to be no more than fifty to one hundred meters in depth with no reserves to throw at the Free Cuban Forces. The rear areas were manned by disorganized units of the Territorial Militia, one of Cuba’s paramilitary organizations.
The resistance was a bit stiffer than he had hoped but by 6 PM the road was clear to Ciego de Avila. General Petra put his team warrior units in the middle of Camaguey with the orders to hit any organized enemy units in the city. It would be the bloodiest night yet. The regular Communist forces knew better than to challenge the Free Cubans at night. FCAF owned the night and it seemed everyone but the Territorial Militia knew it. Their political officers forced the Militia to do the stupidest things imaginable. Things they themselves would never do if so ordered, unless their families were threatened with retaliation for their disobedience. They mounted blind assaults against the FCAF troops who had the most sophisticated night vision equipment in the world. Buses filled with Militia driving too close to the front lines, mostly because they did not know where their enemy was, exploded in the most gruesome displays of the war yet. The Team Warrior units were sickened by the horrendous bloodletting. No one kept count of their kills anymore. There was no way they could keep track of it. Ammunition flowed to the Free Cuban units all night. Before long the major concern was to keep the guns from overheating. The only way Ozzy could keep his men motivated was to keep repeating that “every Communist fighter left alive tonight, the regular FCAF troops would have to fight tomorrow.”
Thirty-nine kilometers out of Camaguay the leading FCAF elements came across a heavily manned road block guarding the bridges just beyond the town of La Vallita. Hundreds of men swarmed the area, most with RPGs slung over their shoulders. Many more were streaming in from the west. Two well camouflaged Soviet-made T-62 tanks were visible through the Abrams infrared scope. What was not visible through the scope was the blue cloth tied to the barrels of the enemy tanks that identified them as Free Cuban Rebels. The unfortunate Rebel tanks came within seconds of being destroyed by an M1A2 tank when yelling came across on all radio channels.
“They’re ours, they have the blue arm bands. Hold your fire, hold your fire.”
The Rebels had streamed in from Ciego de Avila, the town of Florida and the surrounding countryside. The defensive positions were complete with two of the tanks captured by Corporal Garcia, now raised in rank by his newfound friend Jose, to General of the militia, Ciego de Avila Province.
Instead of the joyous greeting they expected, the FCAF troops were greeted courteously but with a touch of disappointment. During the half-hour it took for the Rebels to remove the anti tank mines from in front of the bridge General Petra found out the reason for their mixed emotions. One of the Rebel leaders named Ivan informed the General that they were forming up to take Camaguey. If they had another day they would have.
“We were told you wouldn’t be here for a (expletive) week.” Ivan swore rather brusquely. “We were promised all the territory we could capture and hold till you got here. Ahh…” He looked down at his dusty sandals. “And now you are here early. Well, Sticks of a fir tree! That’s what I say.”
Zip Petra smiled at the problems of success. He put his arm around the shoulder of the Rebel.
“You have done very well indeed my friend,” replied the general in a soothing voice. “They were a tough lot in Camaguey. It would have been a bloody affair. No… you have done as well as you could have under the circumstances.”
Ivan plaintively reasoned “You could have entered the city from the east and we could have come in from the West… with some more time.”
Nothing could perturb Zip now. He was in good spirits. He tried to placate the man.
“I understand that your Rebel forces control the territory from the western border of Ciego de Avila Province all the way to here?”
“I have no idea. I am a simple soldier. What do I know?” said Ivan.
“Well, that’s my information,” Zip said. “That’s got to be close to ten-thousand square kilometers of the best agricultural land in the world. It’s worth billions. Divide that amongst you guys and I’m sure that’s worth at least several hundreds of thousands dollars for each one of you. How many are you?”
“I don’t know, maybe six or seven thousand, that’s if Jose, he’s the leader, didn’t let everyone and their dog join.”
“Bob,” the General inquired of one of his staff at a laptop, “how many acres are in a square kilometer?”
Bob –not his real name, it was because he constantly bobbled a cigarette in his mouth when he spoke -- responded “Well, sir, I don’t know but I know someone that does.” With that Bob brought up his Google page and typed in the inquiry, “How many acres in a square kilometer?” badly misspelled. Within a second the answer popped on the screen “1 kilometer = 247.105 acres.”
“General, that’s two-hundred-forty-seven acres, Sir,” Bob reported proudly.
“Well,” said the General turning to the dusty Ivan, “divide about two-and-a-half million acres of prime cropland by six or seven thousand Rebels. That’s about, uhh… uhh,” he calculated in his head.
Bob piped up. “That’s three-hundred-fifty-seven acres each sir, if it’s seven-thousand Rebels.”
“Wow,” said the General, “and that’s just the land. Not counting the buildings, mineral rights and everything else. I’d say you’ve done very well for yourselves.”
The General left Ivan standing there with his eyes darting around as if watching the thoughts bouncing around in his head.
The FCAF units charged ahead to Ciego de Avila while the Rebels continued on their way to Camaguey. They were to occupy and hold the city and recruit for the coming battle for Havana.
*44 Km West of Ciego de Avila. Majagua, Cuba *
October 2, 2018 L Day plus One
The exploding mine cut through the cane field like an invisible hand ripping the spirits out of the Communist soldiers bodies, leaving the empty shells to fall where they stood. Jesús and the four others jumped up and ran to the sound of the BMP. Jesús soon found himself alone running headlong into the fight. The two other teams had run to the right and left of the Armored Personnel Carrier. He ran straight into the Communists who must have been shooting at him. One lay injured with the other kneeling above him. He would have been happy to run right past them but apparently that’s not how they saw it. The kneeling one had reached for his gun that was propped on the wounded man’s leg. He grabbed the rifle and swung it up to firing position when Jesús’ rifle fired over and over into the man. The barrel of his rifle nearly touched the soldier. Jesús did not even make a conscious decision to take this man’s life. He was instinctively firing. It was as if he were watching someone else do it. The third shot found the Communist, a very young man Jesús was able to see now, raising his arm to ward off the onslaught of bullets. Obviously the gunfight was over for him but it registered too late in Jesús’ panicked mind. He shot again as the boy folded. The image sickened Jesús and he knew it would horrify him the rest of his life. The man who was lying on the ground had rolled to his side and reached for his rifle. Jesús screamed, “No!, Wait!, Stop!” He waited a dangerously long time to defend himself then fired once into the man.
“I wasn’t going to shoot you!” he screamed. “Why’d you make me shoot you! Stupid idiots!”
Jesús crumpled to the ground bowing his head in grief and breathing hard.
“Jesús!” A distant cry lifted his head. He silently listened. “Jesús!” he heard it again and located the direction. He told himself he wasn’t sure if they were swearing, calling upon their Savior or yelling for him. He did not want to believe the latter. His courage completely spent, he got up and ran away before he heard it again. Behind him he heard the BMP firing wildly into the cane followed sometime later by an explosion. He glanced over his shoulder and saw a black plume roiling into a clear blue sky. He kept running and never saw the other four men again.
Jesús ran right through the hastily forming rebel line fifty meters east of the anti-tank minefield and just kept on running. He didn’t break his stride even after the puzzled Rebels yelled after him, “why are you still running?” Over his shoulder he yelled back, “’Cause I don’t have a car!”lxxxv
Guantanamo Free Cuban Sector, Cuba
October 3, 2018 “L” Day plus Two
The Communists were growing in strength in the air. The U.S had tracked an additional thirteen Mig-29’s flown in from Venezuela. They were also tracking a total of thirty-two Chinese J-9 fighter aircraft supported by two refueling tankerslxxxvi on a course to Caracas. Their ultimate destination was assumed to be Cuba.
The ground war was progressing very well for the Free Cubans. The Communist defenses were crumbling as fast as the Iraqi defenses had for the Americans. All that would change however if they could not control the air.
For the next eighteen hours the air war see-sawed back and forth. The Free Cubans were reluctant to risk their last two F-15’s in a foolhardy effort to knock out the last Communist Air Base. The Communists seemed satisfied with just keeping the base intact and probing the Free Cuban air defenses until their reinforcements arrived from Caracas. In Venezuela U.S. intel could plainly see that the Chinese fighters had their markings removed or hastily painted over with Cuban aircraft insigniaslxxxvii. They were heavily laden with weapons and external fuel tanks and now they were in the air and on a course for Baracoa Cuba.
In war it seems you can always count on the side of evil doing the worst possible thing for its best interest. They are bad. They can’t resist doing bad things. The temptation to kill Americans had become too hard to resist. The Communist Cubans had planned an aggressive war of annihilation against its fledgling offspring. It was a natural response, a common sense conclusion as second nature to the Communists as swatting a buzzing mosquito. If it bugs you, kill it. The Americans had become a large mosquito and the Cubans were going to swat it.
The U.S F-18 fighters were getting a little sloppy in their escort duties for the AWACS and other intelligence gathering aircraft. The gas-guzzling fighters had to be relieved often. When they did so sometimes their relief would be five-hundred miles away. Three times the Communists had their best Mig-29 in the air ready to take advantage of an opportunity. Three times there was no opportunity to bring down one of the big, defenseless and expensive aircraft. The fourth time was a charm. One-hundred miles off the Cuban coast an American E-8 Joint STARS ground-reconnaissance aircraft surveyed the battlefield. Cuban radar stations situated along its southern coast tracked its two F-18 escorts that were now two hundred miles away and heading for Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. The Cubans did not detect any replacements yet so it was a good bet the surveillance aircraft was flying solo. The Mig kept its heading for Guantanamo and closed the distance with the E-8 STARS to within two hundred miles. When the American aircraft changed course and headed out to sea the Mig went supersonic and gave chase. On its radar the Mig pilot could not see any other fighter in the air but that did not mean much with the advanced fighters the Imperialists could put up. He was closing the distance nicely. He had passed Mach two and was gaining at a rate of about one-thousand miles per hour. He would be within missile range in about ten minutes. The Mig was chasing the E-8 away from its fighter cover coming in from the States. Unless the American plane was running to some carrier based fighters he couldn’t see yet, he would bag it. The Mig pilot knew this was a one way trip. If the FCAF didn’t get him on the way back the Americans would. He just wanted a nice safe place to ditch the plane after he had won this most important victory for the people of Cuba and the Revolution.
*Havana, Cuba *
October 4, 2018 “L” Day plus Three
The waterfront was calm as the ocean surge slowly raised and lowered the floating debris against the harbor rocks. A cooling breeze swept up the ancient dilapidated streets of Havana to prepare the torpid afternoon for evening. It blew past the two mulatto girls who always wore short shorts, thin cotton halter tops, platform shoes and big smiles.
Past the chatting women in housedresses, the dangerously decayed balconies holding men stripped to their underwear and holding unlit cigars between their fingers, the boys in the street playing baseball hemmed in by walls of once brightly colored but now faded disintegrating plaster and rotting wood.
It blew past the dozens of people still waiting in the bread line even though they knew they would never get in before the doors closed for the day. Each one of their faces were uniquely expressive in various levels of dissatisfaction. Music flowed from open windows in low, sharp and scratchy tones.
The fresh breath of the ocean wafted up one of the salt-eaten staircases and found its way into the room of Lazaro Bonito. The feeling it created across his bare and sweaty back reminded him it was time to get moving.
He cradled the Makarov handgun between his knees with sweaty hands and forced himself to remember why he was doing this. Two years ago a neighborhood friend whom he always called Mr. Sammy was arrested and sent to the large prison system on the Isla de la Juventud or Isle of youth. Lazaro had no father. He had Don Sam Manuel, or Mr. Sammy. He was an elderly man, gentle, kind and wise. From the first days of Lazero’s life he would reach for Mr. Sammy. Whenever the older man was around, the baby demanded that Mr. Sammy carry him about. Lazaro’s mother worked long and hard hours. Thousands of days passed as Mr. Sammy watched over the growing boy from the steps of this very building. Mr. Sammy was better than any father Lazaro knew of. After he was arrested he told Lazaro through a mutual friend to never visit him and to openly denounce him as an enemy of the State. Lazaro knew the game and he played along. He seethed inside knowing how brutally political prisoners were treated. Beaten, starved, tortured, prodded with bayonets. They lived worse than any stray dog on the streets of Havana. Under the Batista regime eleven prisons dotted the island. Castro had over three-hundredlxxxviii. The Communists had murdered as many as 115,000 and incarcerated well over six-hundred-thousand Cubans at a rate higher than Stalin ever did, given the populationlxxxix.
Lazaro got down on his knees, opened a cupboard and reached into his secret hiding place in the wall. He pulled out an oil filter for a car that had been modified to screw on to the barrel of the handgun. He retrieved a loop of foam rubber that he had fashioned to fit over the homemade silencer. It was big and bulky … and quiet. He had tested it a few times in this room shooting into blocks of wood. A simple cough was enough to mask the sound of the shot. He screwed the silencer on the end of the gun and placed it in a box he had found in the trash outside the Banco Nacional de Cuba building. It was very official looking. The box was lined with foam rubber to silence the weapon further. He taped it shut. On one side of the box was a hole large enough for his hand to fit through and operate the gun inside the box. He washed himself from a basin of water and got into his freshly cleaned Young Pioneer Organization uniform with his badges proudly displayed. The neckerchief was tied loosely about his neck as some boys would do in his unit.
With everything prepared he scribbled a quick note to his mother and placed it on her pillow. He lay on his bed wide awake listening to the neighbors talking through the thin walls, calling after their children, and the everyday sounds of living winding down for the night. His mother would not be home from work till midnight.
He got down on his knees and prayed. He crossed himself though he had long forgotten why it was part of the ritual of prayer. He saw Don Sam Manuel do it all of his life and never questioned the practice. Lazaro just liked the ceremony of it. He got up off his knees and left the room, box in hand.
Two-Hundred Kilometers off the Southern Cuban Coast
October 6, 2018 “L” Day + 5
The Mig dropped its external fuel tanks and went supersonic traveling at 1,500 miles per hour. Even though the American aircraft was fleeing at nearly six hundred miles per hour the Communist fighter was still closing at eight-hundred. The Mig-29 ran down the American E-8 surveillance plane when it came within thirty kilometers. Two AA-11 Archerxc missiles shot from their rails ducking sharply down as not to stall the engine with its exhaust. The missiles pushed ahead of the fighter only going three hundred miles per hour faster than the plane that fired them. The MiG pulled back on its speed. The Surveillance plane with thirty crew members aboard nosed into a steep dive that was nearly as dangerous as the missiles chasing it. White hot magnesium flaresxci giving off many times the heat signature of its engines created a blinding pattern of protective angles wings behind the giant aircraft.
One missile exploded in the white curtain of fire the decoys made but was still close enough to punch holes in the port wing fuel tank. The other missile flew through the decoys and went off a moment nearer the damaged wing. Great sheets of flame poured from the wing. The lumbering giant leveled off. The blazing aircraft started shedding ejection seats and parachutes.
The order that the MiG pilot received was perfectly clear -- kill everyone aboard the plane. The moment he received those instructions in the pre-flight briefing he just rolled his eyes. Even the Major giving him the order knew it was stupid, even if it did come from Castro himself. The last thing a pilot who expected to be captured would do is to shoot at a parachuting air crew.
The last parachute had popped open when twenty seconds later the wing on the E-8 folded upward and the aircraft spun out of control. It nosed down and the spinning, burning wreckage threw off the injured wing. The MiG pilot was amazed to see the auto pilot fight the spin, right itself and fly a smooth thirty-five degree angle into the ocean on one wing.
The MiG pilot carefully observed the splash downs of the parachuting Americans. He gave some fictitious radio communications to his home base about missiles chasing him then abruptly stopped all communications mid sentence. He was well out of radar range of the island but still within radio range. He lined up his aircraft, slowed to nearly stall speed and ejected directly over the largest group of the floating survivors.
*Havana, Cuba *
October 4, 2018 “L” Day plus Three
Lazaro walked two blocks where he hoped the car he had stolen was still parked. It took no skill at all to steal this one. A ’55 Cadillac sedan. All he had to do was to connect two bare wires sticking out of the steering column. This was fortunate because Lazaro’s talents did not lie in the delinquent arts. He was a good kid, barely turned fifteen. He was a bit of a loner but liked well enough by his peers. He had decided to do this alone. The hardships of working by himself did not outweigh the benefit of knowing he had no accomplice out there who would shoot off his big mouth and get him caught. He would not risk his mother’s welfare any more than he had to. Not until he at least tried to fight. His mother of all people would understand his motivation. Though she would be sick with fear and worry she would know it was the right thing to do.
His duties as a Young Pioneer volunteer had included parcel delivery to various Governmental agencies, high-ranking officer’s homes and even homes of their mistresses and adult children. During the special period of national mobilization the Government had called upon those who came up through the ranks of the Young Pioneer Organization in all sorts of capacities. Lazaro jumped at the chance to be a courier. Even four months ago he had the burning ambition to assassinate the men who made the machinations of this evil regime possible. Why should he risk his life for the opportunity to kill a lowly foot soldier that was forced into the service of the Communists like he had been. No. He would sell his life dearly. The years he had spent being a good little Communist, the endless hours of indoctrination and all the while he knew deep inside it produced darkness and cruelty. When he opened Don Sam Manuel’s old and tattered bible it was like light from God himself shining down upon him. The people of Cuba must have the choice at least to hear, read and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and receive its saving ordinances. The Free Cubans at Guantanamo were a gift from God. He would strike while the iron was hot. While it could make a difference.
It was surprising the information that delivery men knew about people, their schedules, where they could be found at certain times of day, where their girlfriends lived, the jobs their adult children held and on and on. There was plenty of gossip around the sorting room that revealed quite a bit about General Ivelice Camejo’s personal habits. He was General of the Western Army and by far the most important man Lazaro had information on.
The main problem was sorting out those who knew what they were talking about and the braggarts who puffed and embellished their stories to gain a little stature in the eyes of their fellow co-workers.
Lazaro had delivered a package to one of the homes of General Camejo. He put up his favorite mistress there. It was said quite often that the General would eat dinner with his family and see his kids at his home till about 9:00 PM. Then he would drive a short distance to another house he owned where his mistress awaited him. For some reason the General kept only two bodyguards with him at this location. Maybe he thought a lower profile would cause less attention and therefore less embarrassment for his family. A month ago when Lazaro delivered the package the two bodyguards were watching TV with the sound turned down low and talked only in whispers when one of them signed for the package. They seemed more like personal servants than military and were completely unconcerned at what went on in the darkness surrounding the house.
Lazaro drove to the Westside location and parked in front of the General’s house. Lazaro was taking a chance but he figured he would find him here. People were creatures of habit. Especially fifty-seven year old men of power. As he drove up he looked carefully around to see who might be looking on. It was a regular, older neighborhood on one side of the street. There was a large city park on the other side. It was deserted because of the approaching curfew. The sixty year old houses were young and fresh when the revolution took place. Now they were drab, weather beaten and termite riddled. They had small front yards and large squeaky wooden porches. The trees were old and pushed up the concrete sidewalk in large humps. The two guards were smoking on the porch and seemed a little wary that a courier would come so late at night.
Lazaro got out of the car and carried the box in an easy, careless manner like a teenager naturally would, careful to keep the hole for his gun hand pointed away from the house. He carried a leather valise in his hand as well hoping the guards would spend time wondering what was in it.
“What ‘cha got?” one of the guards said then blew his cigarette smoke from the corner of his mouth.
Lazaro felt numb. He felt like a scared rabbit. He just wanted to turn back and say he had the wrong house or made a mistake or something but he knew it wouldn’t work. He would be caught and his mother would go to prison. The thought of his mother flashing across his mind emboldened him. It was do or die time.
“Something for the General. Is he in?” It was a common enough question. If he wasn’t there or was not going to be there the delivery would have to go some place else.
“Yeah, you got a pen?”
Lazaro had forgotten a pen. The men looked to each other as Lazaro reached his hand inside the hole and gripped the gun inside the box. The man looked puzzled when this delivery boy raised the box in an odd sort of way. His eyes widened and he recoiled slightly when he saw the position of Lazaro’s shoulder and his head cocking to the side. He new instinctively that the very young man was pointing a gun. There was a muffled metallic “Thuunk” sound that sent a bullet through the head of the startled guard. He went straight down in a thumping heap. Lazaro turned the box toward the other guard and whispered
“You do as I say or you’ll die. Say ‘Idiot, your gonna wake some one up’. You make them believe it!”
The guard could see the desperate fear in the delivery boy’s eyes and knew he would indeed die if he didn’t do it. As Lazaro pulled the guard’s handgun from its holster the guard pointed his head to the screen door and toward the staircase inside the house.
“Idiot,” he said in a said in a rather rehearsed, mechanical way, “your gonna wake someone up.”
Lazaro stopped and listened. There was no sound from the house.
“Open the door. Go in.”
The body was in the way but they both sidled through the doorway.
“Turn the porch light off.” The guard did so.
“Take me to the General’s room.”
The two walked slowly through a modest but larger than usual front room with Lazaro following the guard keeping the gun at the man’s back. Lazaro knew this guy was buying time so he could find a way to stop him. The guard had to know he would face a firing squad if he survived the General. He did not want to kill this guard if he could help it but knew the guy was going to charge him any second. Lazaro lowered the box, pointed it at the guy’s leg and whispered, “don’t make a noise or you die. I’m saving your life.”
There was another muffled pop and the bullet tore through the meaty part of the guard’s thigh. The guard gasped and nearly fell. Lazaro caught him under his arm and ushered him into the kitchen. The guard, a somewhat effeminate thin man, understood the plan to keep him alive and played his part. This delivery boy would not have risked a shot to his leg if he was going to kill him in the end anyways. His eyes looked toward the staircase and said, “Keep it down Martin.”
He looked into the eyes of the young courier and nodded. He laid face down on the kitchen linoleum. Lazaro pulled some kitchen towels out of a drawer and bandaged the leg. He then pulled some heavy-duty plastic cable tiesxcii out of his pocket and handcuffed the guard’s hands behind his back. He did the same to his feet then hogtied them together.
“Can you breathe through your nose well?” Lazaro taped the man’s mouth and put another towel between the floor and the leg wound. “Keep your weight on the wound to keep it from bleeding. It’s not bleeding badly,”
He felt stupid playing nursemaid to a guy he planned on killing. He pulled his neckerchief up to hide his face, grabbed his fake delivery box and headed up the stairs. The old wooden stairs creaked unbelievably loud. He decided to keep a normal, regular pace to make it sound as though it was one of the guards coming upstairs. The ruse was over, Lazaro decided. He made a small tear in the box and pulled out the gun with the silencer still attached. He went to the end of the upstairs hallway. He put the makeshift silencer of the gun against the door lock and tried the handle. It was locked. With no hesitation he fired twice into the door jam surrounding the lock. He pushed it open with his shoulder and found himself standing at the foot of a bed in a dark room. He pointed his gun at the shapes in the bed and waited for any threatening movement.
“Don’t shoot. I am not armed.” The voice was definitely that of the General. Lazaro’s eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness and saw the General’s belt and holster just out of reach on the nightstand. The woman was absolutely frozen and quiet.
“Stand up, keep your hands up. Get over by the wall. Hands behind your head, down on your knees, cross your ankles.”
The woman began to cry quietly. “If you are quiet and do as I say you will live. Do you understand?” The woman nodded silently.
He quickly fit the zip ties over the General’s hands, cinched them about his wrists and cuffed his hands behind his back with another plastic tie. Then he taped the General’s mouth. He sat him in a chair next to the telephone.
Lazaro quickly hogtied the woman with the plastic straps and taped her mouth as well.
“You are going to stay right here and make some calls,” Lazaro said to the General. “The first person you are going to talk to is Fernandez.” Nikita Fernandez was the General’s Chief of Staff and right hand man. “You will tell him to come over with the personnel lists for The Army of the West. Home addresses, phone numbers, everything he’s got but he must come over alone, right now. You want to discuss some security risks or something. If he sounds the least bit suspicious you will die. Do you understand?”
The General seemed rather cool considering the circumstances. He nodded.
Lazaro loosened the tape. And asked, “What is the number I dial?”
“Young man…,” the General said in a patronizing way.
“General, if you say one word that does not help me accomplish this mission I will put two bullets into your head and be happy to be on my way. Is it a fifty-three number?” Lazaro inquired about the area code.
“Yes, three-three-four-zero-eight-one,” responded the General.
As Lazaro dialed the number on the old rotary dial phone the General added, “I will do whatever you want me to do”
Lazaro responded suspiciously, “Thank you.”
Both heads pressed together as the young man listened in. The dialed number rang once.
“Western Army headquarters,” a voice answered.
“This is General Camejo. Is Lieutenant Fernandez available?”
“Yes sir. I’ll ring him,” There was a wait of ten seconds that seemed interminable to Lazaro.
“Yes General,” it was Nikita’s voice.
“Nikita, I think we may have some disloyalty problems. Could you bring over some lists of West Army personnel?”
“Now sir? You want them tonight?”
“Yes. When can you be here?”
“Where is here, General?”
“Oh, sorry, I’m at my home on Mazon. You know the one?”
“Yes sir. I will get that stuff together. It’s kind of crazy around here sir. Are you sure you need them right now?”
“I’m afraid so, Nikita. I know it’s a problem but it’s important.”
“Yes sir. I will have them delivered to you by…uh…zero-one-twenty hours.”
“I said I want you to bring them over. I need to go over them with you tonight. Come alone. I don’t want anyone to know about this. And hurry it up. Put Rivero or Puentes in charge, just while you’re gone. It will only take an hour. They can reach you here. The number here is three-seven-zero-two-five-eight.”
“Yes Sir,” came the response in an exaggerated sigh. “We have room on the rail cars for an armored battalion give or take. You want artillery or armored vehicles to fill out the…”
“Yes,” the General interrupted “make it Artillery. Now anything else we can discuss when you get here.”
Lazaro took the phone from his ear and hung it up.
“How was that,” the General said in a flat condescending tone, more as a statement than a question. It was evident that the General held his young captor in contempt.
Lazaro carefully weighed his response. He put the tape over the General’s mouth then explained “General, I am ordered (he wasn’t ordered by anyone) to either kill you or enlist your help with the revolution. Whether you’re willing or not. You will call and order the troops under your command into the service of the Free Cubans.”
To dramatize the point that there was no going back for himself Lazaro pulled the neckerchief down off of his face to give the General the ability to identify him. That said it all about the young man’s determination. He would succeed or he could never let the General live.
“If you simply cooperate I guarantee that you will be given all the things the flyers have promised someone of your standing. Amnesty, immigration to the U.S. for you and your family if you want, I guarantee at least one million U.S. dollars and a percentage of the entire area your troops control. That’s worth many more millions, your own security detail paid for by the State, you keep everything that is currently yours.”
The General hummed through his nose, “uh huh, uh huh,” as though saying “yes, yes.”
“If you take control of Havana and clear the way for the Free Cubans I guarantee you no less than one billion U.S. dollars.”
There was still no real reaction from the man.
Lazaro continued. “The Free Cubans will be here soon. They have the full backing of the Americans. The Communists will not win this one. Many of your men will die needlessly. It is not necessary.” His voice was becoming higher in pitch and faster in delivery. He was not aware that he started to sound like a cartoon chipmunk. “They can share in the same rewards. You need to do what is best for your men, not to mention Cuba. You know what a latrine pit this country has become. We must have a change. If the Free Cubans take over, money from free countries will sweep over this island like a tidal wave. A good tidal wave. Instead of leaving destruction in its path it will leave beautiful cities and highways and farmlands where there were none before. It will leave smiling, happy children and families.” That was the end of his prepared speech.
Lazaro spent all the time he could afford trying to convince this man. It was impossible to read the General’s stoic response to what he was saying.
He walked downstairs keeping an even, businesslike gait. If neighbors happened to peek in he did not want them to see frenzied activity.
The front porch was a mess. Lazaro laid his gun on a chair next to the front door and covered it with one of the towels. He dragged the body down the steps and around the side of the house. The side of the old wooden porch had rotted away giving access to the cavernous darkness inside. He pushed the body underneath the porch. He went back up the steps. It seemed like a gallon of blood had pooled beneath the body. He went back into the house and into the laundry room just behind the kitchen. He walked by the second guard who looked up at him fearfully.
“Everything is going well, don’t worry my friend. You’re going to be fine.” Lazaro said reassuringly. He gathered every terri-cloth towel he could see, which was an armful, and headed to the porch. Nothing but frogs and crickets filled the night as he soaked up the blood in the darkness. He dumped the bloody towels inside the house behind the front door then switched on the porch light. Red smears were streaked across the worn wood and the old white paint that covered most of the porch. He went to the hose, turned it on and started to spray down the porch. He rubbed the stubborn stains with the sole of his shoe but it was tough going. Blood was a nasty thing. A car drove up and parked right behind Lazaro’s car. Lazaro froze in fright. He could not move. The water ran from the hose and splattered on the steps. A lone figure got out of the car carrying a valise. It was too late to do anything but put down the hose, open the screen door and salute. It was Lieutenant Nikita Fernandez. Only a First Lieutenant in rank but because of his close position to General Camejo he held more sway than any Major, Captain or even some of the Generals under Western Army command.
“Who are you?” the approaching man barked with authority as he strode past the young man holding the door for him and into the front room.
“Manuel Gonzalez, sir. I am a courier.”
“Where are his body guards?”
“One is around back I think and the other one is in the kitchen, Sir.”
“Worthless (expletive)’s,” mumbled the officer “Is the general upstai…” he paused as the smell of blood struck him. He saw a bulky item on the chair covered by a cloth. He reached down and pulled the cloth off of it. Before his brain could register what the item was Lazaro pushed him hard into the center of the room. Both went for their guns but Lazaro had his gun and silencer pointed at Nikita’s chest before the man could fully uncover the leather flap of his holster.
“Don’t move,” Lazaro said quietly.
Now it was Nikita’s turn to freeze in fright. Lazaro moved forward and took the officer’s handgun.
As the two men slowly marched upstairs Lazaro could feel the tension rising in the officer building up the courage to attack him. Both spoke at the same time.
“You won’t get away with…” said the older officer, cut off by Lazaro.
“The General is alive and well. He awaits you upstairs. If all goes well you will survive this. Just don’t try something stupid.”
Nikita slowed his pace perceptibly. Lazaro pointed the gun at Nikita’s shoulder. A shoulder smashed by a bullet will make anyone compliant, if they don’t go crazy and fight you to the death. He was ready to fire when the man said, “Alright then, if you do not hurt the General I will comply with what you want me to do.”
“Very well,” agreed Lazaro. “Move it, faster, faster.”
The General was just as Lazaro left him. The woman was whimpering in pain. There was no chair that Nikita could be tied to so Lazaro laid him on his stomach and hog tied him. He cut the heavy plastic strap that bound the woman’s wrists and ankles together and strapped her limbs spread eagle to the frame of the brass bed. Lazaro noticed for the first time that she was a beautiful young woman, although a number of years older than he was. She was dressed in the thinnest of cotton pajama tops and underwear. Her skin complexion was flawless with a body to match. He was ashamed that he would be sexually aroused under these circumstances. He closed his eyes just for two seconds and bowed his head nearly imperceptibly. “Father, forgive me” he prayed silently. He modestly covered the woman with a blanket.
With the prisoners adequately immobilized Lazaro quickly prepared the house. He finished hosing down any traces of blood outside. He brought up the bloody towels and placed them in the General’s bedroom. He raided the kitchen for foodstuffs and stored them in the bedroom as well. He brought up the wounded guard, laid him on the crowded bedroom floor, then cleaned up the small amount of blood he had left on the kitchen linoleum. Anyone wandering about the downstairs would hopefully not see anything amiss.
For the last time Lazaro went into the General’s bedroom. He propped a wooden chair against the door then turned to the General.
“I want your troops to take control of Havana and arrest Castro. You have to do it from this phone here.” He said lifting the heavy black phone. “I don’t know exactly how you are going to do it, obviously. If we do not succeed you two will not leave this room alive. I at least have a chance.” Lazaro’s voice took on a low tone of depressed solemnity.
“Everyone knows if I am killed the FreeCav (FCAF) has promised to execute everyone in the chain of command responsible for my death. Everyone. Every judge or prosecutor who touches my case. Every jailer who mistreats me. Anyone and everyone I say to execute, they are bound to execute. I have given instructions to execute everyone who gives the person aid or assistance or does not turn the murder in immediately. That gives me a great deal of power, don’t you think? After I kill you they may just arrest me and keep me alive till the Free Cubans finally take over. If for some reason you survive me, I have given the Free Cubans instructions to execute you and Lieutenant Fernandez when they finally take power. So you see, you will die unless you do your best to cooperate. If you cooperate, you will be given the same protection that I enjoy.”
The General’s eyes were genuinely thoughtful as Lazaro spoke. He looked to the floor as his mind thought of moves and to the walls as he thought of countermoves. Actions and consequences. Feasibility, plausibility, morality, loyalty. A look of determination came over him. The General motioned his head to notify Lazaro that he was ready to have the tape taken off of his mouth. Lazaro did so.
“I am doing this for the welfare of my troops and Cuba. I am not afraid to die, young man. Do you hear that Nikita? You will cooperate with this. That is an order.”
The many benefits of staying alive in a time of danger could always be seen with crystal clarity. The positive repercussions that your death would bring about seemed to fade behind the dark veil of confused thought. By placing the choice of life and death before the General Lazaro simply focused the man’s mind on the changes that must be made in Cuba. The Communist party had its chance. Now Cuba needed a change.
The General continued. “This is what needs to be done…” The general explained in broad terms and a few sweeping sentences what his goals and objectives were. Guard the house, take over the media centers and capture the Palace of the Revolution -- Cuba’s center of power in downtown Havana. He would send units to race forty-seven kilometers across the island and secure the town of Batabano (bah-tah-bah-NO) and its little port.
Lazaro quite naturally should have been pleased with the General’s seeming enthusiastic cooperation but he felt only disappointment. He just wanted to get out of there.
Subconsciously he had hoped that their cooperation would not be forthcoming. He never thought they would actually cooperate. His goal was to sow seeds of confusion within the ranks, delay and buy time for the Free Cubans. Have the General give a few orders that in the end would be quickly countermanded. He would shoot them as he originally planned then attempt an escape. All that vanished five seconds after he untaped the General’s mouth. Lazaro believed him but he was not a fool. He knew this man would do anything to save his own life.
Lazaro held the phone to the General’s ear.
“Captain, I want you to dispatch the 357th to my home here on Mazon. You are to command them personally. You are to set up defensive positions around the house. Listen to me carefully. You will guard the house. No one, not even you is to come closer to the house than the sidewalk. My guards will shoot anyone who approaches the house. You shoot anyone who tries to get past you. Anyone! If anyone does, it is you who will be shot! You are to look out for disloyal troops and commanders. I think the money the Imperialists are offering is turning the heads of some of our commanders. Do not tell anyone what you do. You are completely independent from any other units. Any unit or commander who tries to countermand this order is to be deemed hostile and arrested or defended against. We have just uncovered an Imperialist plot to overthrow the government and I don’t know who we can trust. This will be my headquarters. Put Rivero in charge there. Anyone can reach me here. If you need to reach me call me at this number…”
When he was done with this most convincing diatribe the orders were confirmed and added to by Nikita. He turned out to be a pretty good actor as well, except for the slight grunting discomfort in his voice.
Within ten minutes vehicles started arriving. The first group of eight or so set up roadblocks, took positions around back and cleared out the neighboring houses. Heavier vehicles could be heard rumbling near the corners of the block. Through the drawn Venetian blinds Lazaro saw two tanks take positions in the park across the street. The gray barrels pointed outward ready to defend the army’s new HQ.
The General knew very well the men he suspected of having counterrevolutionary leanings. They were only suspicions but he would have to gamble.
“I need the lists. I need my hands! Cut these straps loose.”
“No Sir, I’ll turn the pages for you,” responded Lazaro.
It was only a few minutes when it was clear that the General needed his hands. Turning pages, cross checking against other lists in other files, writing notes. It was taking far too long. Lazaro checked the desk carefully for weapons, letter openers or heavy objects. He cut the straps that held the older man’s hands to the heavy wooden chair. The General wasted no time going through the files compiling names, cross-checking them, scratching them off and adding new ones.
For the next three hours the General worked the phone.
During a short lull the General turned to Lazaro and said, “You know I am at the point of no return. I can’t go back now. I would be shot the moment they get a hold of me. I need to be there if I am to pull off this plan.”
*Havana, Cuba *
October 5, 2018 “L” Day plus Four
Major Pablo Jimenez drove up to the huge Havana central railroad station riding in the front seat of a large green army truck. In the back were twelve officers and non-coms hand chosen by the General himself. The men fell in and marched up the steps toward the immense and beautiful building that now was the headquarters for the quartermaster of the Army of the West. It always seemed in any war the quartermaster would be found in the very center of luxury. This war was no different.
“I need to see Colonel Calzada on an urgent matter,” Major Jimenez barked at the first staffer he saw after striding into the anteroom of the headquarters.
“Yes sir, right through here sir. He is expecting you,” The young, thin man with black rimmed glasses said in an obsequiousness spawned from years of fear.
Major Jimenez eyed him carefully as he walked past, as though he was trying to make up his mind whether to have him shot or not. The young staffer’s Adam apple bobbed up and down in a hard attempt to swallow. Jimenez strode through the large and beautifully ornate atrium like office that had twelve rows of large old wooden desks marching in rows of four. Most of the desks were manned and many office types were busily hustling to and fro. The noise of numerous people on phones and yelling across the room reminded him of video clips of the New York Stock Exchange. He also noticed that the room had a disproportionate supply of pretty young women.
“The first appointment I’m going to ask for when this thing is over is a quartermaster’s spot,” Jimenez thought to himself.
The giant room was open to the second story where offices lined a walkway that looked down upon the many desks below. Armed guards walked up there looking down as well.
Much of the right hand wall was paneled with mahogany and behind it was Captain Calzada’s regal office. The door opened before Jimenez reached it and there stood the Captain himself with a smart salute and a warm handshake.
“Major Jimenez? I am Captain Calzada. The General called me. These facilities are at your service. Just tell me what you want and I will make the necessary preparations.”
Jimenez did not know what the General told this guy but it must have involved numerous threats to get the temperamental prima donna to move like this. The Quartermaster General’s office was rife with power, influence and corruption, and pretty women it seemed. One usually dealt with the quartermasters by offering favors, flattery and bribes. It seemed that threats worked even better. Jimenez felt the years of frustration with this very group of petty dictators bubble out of his soul like an out gassing volcano. He had the power to shoot any one that looked at him wrong and he was in a mood to do it.
“We need to get all available units moving south toward the Port at Batabano,” Major Jimenez said. “We are sending no more units east. We will form up and head out in twenty minutes. Any thing that takes longer than that to off load from the railcars will follow later.”
“Where do you want me to send them?” the Quartermaster sounded puzzled.
“We expect an amphibious landing from the imperialists in or around that port.” Jimenez relaxed a little in his gruff tone. He saw plainly that this guy could very well go over the head of the General and call higher ups the minute he left the office.
He added “Your second in command can send them down the highway to Batabano. We’ll take it from there.”
“My second in command?” the quartermaster sounded horrified.
“You Sir will be coming with us.”
“I can’t leave here,” he pleaded with the junior officer. “I just can’t! Why me specifically?”
The muscles in Jimenez’s jaw tightened and looked like little ropes on his thin face. “I don’t know sir. Those are my orders. Maybe you are to coordinate logistics with this office. I don’t know.”
Jimenez saw the color go out of the Quartermaster’s face and suspicion creep in.
“Of course,” the man tried to control his voice from rising or shaking too much but Jimenez could tell he was scared, “I will get just a few things. It will only take a minute.”
The Quartermaster went back into his office with Jimenez following closely on his heels. Jimenez closed the door behind himself and said, “I will tell you something in confidence. Everyone is under suspicion. They suspect traitors among us. I was told to keep an eye on you.”
The Quartermaster threw a few items into his valise and started to scribble a note to his second in command.
“May I?” Jimenez said as he picked up the paper while the man was still writing. This act of insubordination, that would have normally brought screams of indignation, now only garnered silent fear from the Captain.
He read it aloud. “Call the Palace of the Revolution, Castro himself if you can and tell him…”
Jimenez looked up from the paper to the Captain “Tell him what Calzada? That you are on the verge of being arrested for incompetence or worse?” He held up the paper. “This will not do.” He folded it up and put it in his pocket. “The General wants to see you. If you do nothing except what I tell you to do, you will live to see him. Give me any more problems I will take you out in front of this building and set you before a firing squad. Do I make myself clear?”
The Captain nodded his head.
“Your second in command, uhh, what’s his name, has already talked to the General anyway. He knows why we have come here.”
That was fully believable to the Captain. The General had asked to speak with his second-in-command, that rank climbing son of a MINIT officer, but the man was not there at the time. The General probably did track down the backstabbing moron.
He resolved not to take a chance opposing this Major. He was obviously doing the bidding of the General. There was nothing he could do. If this was a coup attempt he would not be held responsible. He received orders from his commanding officer. He could plausibly deny that he had any suspicion at all at this point.
“I understand. I would not stand in the way of your doing your duty,” the quartermaster said in a low fatalistic way.
Jimenez and the quartermaster walked out of the office and through the two rows of the General’s hand picked men. Standing at the doorway leading outside stood the quartermaster’s second in command with a puzzled look on his face. The Captain knew in an instant the General did not discuss his arrest with him.
The Quartermaster stopped in his tracks and became his old belligerent self again. “These men are unauthorized to be here. Call the guards and arrest them.”
Major Jimenez quickly responded “Captain Calzada, by the order of General Camajo you are under arrest for treason and counterrevolutionary activities. You are to come with us.”
The Quartermaster turned purple with rage when the young man did nothing in the face of these thirteen armed killers.
“I’m sorry sir,” his second apologized. The General called me and ordered me to cooperate with this Major. I cannot countermand their orders. I’m sorry sir.”
“Move along,” Jimenez barked. “Do I need to handcuff you, Sir?”
“You fool, don’t you see they are plotting a coup? Call the presidential palace. Go over the General’s head. Warn them that…” he felt a sharp stabbing pain as one of Jimenez’ men prodded him with a bayonet giving him the option to move out the door or be run through. “Call them, Call them,” he yelled as he exited the building.
Jimenez turned to the young man. “I will leave Sergeant Manasa here with you. You will cooperate with him or we will be back for you,” he said with menace in his voice.
Jimenez cocked his head, looked into the eyes of the young man and smiled a wicked smile “Congratulations on your promotion, Captain.”
He walked out the door and shot his last parting comment over his shoulder “And you’ll need to clean up the mess out front here.”
“Yes Sir,” the young man said, not knowing what the Major was referring to but obedient nevertheless.
In less than a minute a volley of shots rang out as the Quartermaster fell to a firing squad. The young second in command had the mess cleaned up.
Nothing gets the attention of your troops like an execution. With a quick call to their higher ups the armored units found themselves under the control of Major Jimenez and his band. Fifty-seven tanks and armored vehicles lined the waterfront on Desamparados next to the train station. Jimenez gathered up the sergeants and above and nervously awaited the General’s arrival. He was late. Just as Jimenez decided to get the vehicles rolling a car rolled up with the General in the back. He jumped out and strode to the group of men. Two men hauled an ammunition crate out of a nearby truck. The General stood on it and without hesitation began.
“Our job is to fortify the Palace of the Revolution but there is a problem. We have had no communication from the Palace since last night. There is nothing going in or out. We have reason to believe at least some special troops around the Palace may be disloyal. Our job is to go in and establish communications with Castro himself and make sure he is well.” He looked around and found a few eyes squinting with suspicion.
“It may be a false alarm. If it isn’t I want you men to be prepared to take the Palace and protect the lives of the Comandante en Jefe and the party leadership.
They have eight tanks and twice that in BMP’s. There are a limited number of troops there. Probably two hundred at the most. Only twenty or thirty are special troops.”
Usually Havana was crawling with two battalions made up of these rigorously trained and politically reliable personnel. They were a highly trained shock force that mainly provided protection for high-ranking officials. Most were siphoned off to serve in the disastrous battle for Guantanamo. Not a single one had returned. Instead of filling their ranks with experienced soldiers they opted to bring up fanatically devoted young men who had showed exceptional promise in one of the youth organizations like the Jose Marti Pioneers or the Union of Young Communists. Many of them were prerecruits sixteen or seventeen years old. They were waiting to be inducted into the regular armed forces when the country underwent mobilization. They were snatched up to fill in the ranks of the Special Troops the moment they left basic training. The Communists placed loyalty over any other virtue.
The General gave instructions, encouragement and steel in their backbone. When he concluded he asked, “Any questions?”
Major Jimenez raised his hand and spoke “Did you want some units to come in from Independence Ave. Sir?”
“Who do we have here? Battalion 2721? Yes. You will reinforce the palace from the south under Lieutenant Conejo, where are you…” The General looked around. “There, there he is. You will obey his orders without hesitation. Is that clear?” he added in a stern tone.
The General got in his car and sped the three kilometers to the Palace of the Revolution. A green army truck followed closely behind.
End of chapter 4
Cuba Chapter 5
*Havana, Cuba *
October 5, 2018 “L” Day plus Four
The General’s car, not a limo by any stretch of the imagination, rolled down the dirty cramped streets of east Havana. The dilapidated crumbling buildings loomed above him like the slot canyons he had seen in a magazine. He knew very well some of these people could afford to paint or fix up these exteriors but were afraid to do so. Afraid of calling attention to themselves. Afraid of appearing better off than their neighbors.
The smoky little Lada labored up Factoria Street weighed down by four two hundred pound men. The abandoned industrial buildings and warehouses looked like they were ruins -- vintage WWII, destroyed by neglect and scavengers instead of bombs. Their internal structures had sprouted flimsy hovels constructed with scraps of wood and rusting steel. The roofs and walls were dirty sheets of plastic sagging in despair. ‘Like malignancies growing inside a corpse’ thought the general as he peered out the passenger window ‘poor wretches’. The car splashed through large puddles of sewage which was common this close to the rail yard. The broken sewer pipes were a low priority even before the national mobilization. The car turned left onto Maximo Gomez. It was a larger boulevard but just as depressing. In less than a kilometer they turned onto Arroyo. Straight down the street stood the Palace of the Revolution. There was space and breathing room on this street. The General took a deep breath. In three minutes he would be battling for his life. The morning was still new and fresh. The few trees looked greener today than he had ever seen them. The air was sweeter and fresher than the fetid and oppressive odors of the inner city. The blue sky looked incredibly beautiful, as though he were seeing it for the first time. “Like a new world,” he mumbled unintelligibly.
The calmness he felt disappeared as the little eastern European car came to the first roadblock.
“General Hernandez to see the Commandante,” said the driver as he handed a fist full of papers and identifications to the sentry. There was only one Commandante around here and it was Castro himself.
“Yes sir, just a minute sir,” said the sentry handing back the paperwork. He signaled the heavily laden truck blocking the road. It roared to life and lurched out of the way.
The General opened his car door and rested his arm on the roof of the car.
“I have reinforcements coming through here in a few minutes. Keep that thing out of the way.”
“But, uhh, the…” responded the sentry.
“But what!” The General said with rising temper. “Did you read those orders we just gave you? Just what do you do with the documents people give you soldier? I said, do you read them?” The General was very good at being scary and now he was playing it like he was going for an Oscar.
“Yes sir.” The sentry quickly found out he was not going to impress the General by following his strict orders to take direction only from the Palace itself. Just a few minutes ago he overheard chatter on his walkie-talkie that the Quartermaster had been executed. A shock of fear bolted through the sentry’s body as he realized it was this General who ordered it and might be contemplating his own execution at this very moment. If he wanted to keep his life another minute he would have to recover fast.
“Uhh, uhh the heavies go through the eastbound lanes, here Sir,” he pointed to his right. I will have them cleared immediately Sir.” He turned and screamed at the men working in and around the trucks now blocking the lanes. The veins in his neck distended and his face morphed into ferocity. “Move those trucks now! Clear those lanes! Move it. Move it!”
The General waited patiently till the soldier was finished screaming and the trucks were moving. The Lada moved forward sounding more like a boat with an outboard motor than a car.
Three hundred meters to the Palace. The square in front of the Palace had sand bagged gun emplacements, armored personnel carriers and tanks. Across the square situated near the Jose Marti monument were more. The General knew the thick trees on the other side of the palace looking south would be teeming with the same. The General’s car came to a stop in front of a T-62 tank straddling the semi-circular driveway.
The General and three of his men lightened the car considerably when they got out with briefcases in hand and slammed the doors. A young officer approached them, walking a considerable distance from the portico of the palace. He saluted smartly “General Camejo, how can I help you Sir?”
“I need a meeting with the Commandante.”
“Yes Sir, if you could follow me.”
When the other two men followed behind, the officer looked askance at them.
“They are part of my briefing,” the General said.
They walked through the ornate front doors held by saluting soldiers, past the great mural of heroes on horseback. They passed through a metal detector and their briefcases were thoroughly searched. The General’s two companions were vigorously patted down. Even the general was given a quick body search by a sheepish and apologetic Sergeant. It was not the same humiliating groin and butt search that his companions had endured, but it was sufficient to ensure he had no gun on him. The three men collected their briefcases and were escorted to the elevator. They descended fifteen meters below the lobby. When the elevator opened the cool smells of deep earth enveloped them. They walked down long, cramped hallways of stark concrete. Heavy steel blast doors broke up the monotonous passages. They reminded the General of large bulkhead hatchways on a ship. It was just plain stupid to have the leader of the country in this shelter the General thought. Being in a secret location was the only protection against the modern bunker buster bombs that were surely available to the Free Cubans. The General had seen internet videoxciii of the Imperialist bomb in action. It dug a crater so large and so deep it was hard to determine the scale of it in the video. The crater was at least ten meters deep. The bombs had the necessary accuracy to pound the exact same spot over and over and dig out any underground bunker in the world, in theory at least. In the past conflicts it had never been necessary to attack the same target twice. Even if the deepest bunkers did not collapse, everyone inside was killed or badly injured and the structure was rendered unusable.
Apparently someone else had the same thoughts as the General. Castro’s war room was in the process of packing up and moving to the divisional HQ in the center of Havana. The new headquarters just happened to be located in the Hospital Pediatrico Docente Cerro, Havana’s premier hospital (such as it was) for children.
The General and his staff of two walked single file down the corridor. They were passed by several uniformed men carrying heavy boxes of documents, maps, printers, computers and the like from the bunker complex. The corridor was so cramped that the General had to sidle past the burdened soldiers. Up ahead the General saw the familiar face of Castro walking toward him in the cramped hall. The Comandante’s head was bobbing up and down in his unmistakable gait, sandwiched between his bodyguards.
The General let his pants slip down a few inches. The lowered pants were barely noticeable under his long uniform jacket. For good measure he reached behind his back and put his finger down the crack of his butt. He grabbed the hilt of a hardened nylon spikexciv hidden there and eased it up till it was a few inches above his lowered pants.
The General’s companion walking directly behind him clearly understood the meaning of the action. He put his left hand on the General’s shoulder and leaned forward and with a smile he whispered something in the older man’s ear. His right hand, now obscured, reached under the General’s jacket, grabbed the spike and pulled it the rest of the way out of his butt crack. With the deft motion worthy of a magician he transferred it to his notebook binder, pushing it up between the covers. As long as he kept pressure on the book the spike would remain inside the binder. As soon as he relieved his grip the spike would drop into his open palm.
Castro looked up at the General. Puzzlement pinched his face as he said, “General Camejo, what is happening?” He waited for an answer.
The General responded, “I have some information regarding disloyal personnel.”
Castro nodded his head knowingly. “Yes, yes but you must see me at the new HQ. I can’t talk to you now. We are in the process of moving as you see.”
At that moment an aide that the General recognized bounded down the hall gripping a sheet of paper. “Commandante, Commandante…”
Castro let out a sigh of exasperation at the call.
“Sir, you have an urgent message from the…”
The aide stopped mid-sentence. His eyes widened with horror as he now recognized General Camejo. In that moment the General knew the game was up. Word had come from somewhere reporting the unauthorized troop movements at General Camejo’s hand. Castro, in his tired state, was a bit slower to turn to look at the aide. When he did, the old fox knew in an instant what that look meant. It was the last coherent thought that he would ever have on this earth. Before he could even turn his head to see the look on the face of the General that betrayed him a blinding white flash took away his vision. He had a sensation of falling followed quickly by enveloping darkness and hell.
He seemed to be sliding down a crumbling precipice with the gaping jaws of a horrifying darkness below him. His body obeyed one last command from his spirit as his arm shot out in a desperate attempt to grab and hold on to this world. A world that his Creator had lovingly made for him, in a body that had been painstakingly crafted over eons. A world in which Castro had raged and oppressed and tortured and murdered countless numbers of his brothers and sisters for decades.
His spirit was flushed out of his body as quickly as waste going down a toilet to an eternity of torment and anguish that had awaited him for far too long. A billion-trillion years would go by before his time in hell would even have begun.
The General’s companion and assassin was Alexis Maestre. Alex for short. He was an average looking fellow. Average height, weight, build and intelligence. His health had been slightly better than average but unfortunately the health of his family had not been. He had five children, now grown or dead. Only someone who has had children in the oppressive poverty of a Communist country could begin to know the hardships that entailed. Now he had grandchildren. They had been such beautiful lithe little creatures. One had just died of dengue fever. One had daily epileptic seizures brought on by a case of malaria she had survived when she was two years old. Dengue fever and malaria in the 21st century. Shameful. Of course you couldn’t call it Dengue fever. You had to say it was a fever syndrome since Dengue was officially eradicated in the eighties. The third one, little Alicia, had a chronic dysentery of unknown origins and her survival was in doubt. He had seen his own children grow and forced into jobs that were literally meaningless for starvation pay. Whatever the Party ordered you to do, that’s what you did. Whatever the Party thought you should think that’s what you tried to think.
He was a career soldier never achieving a higher rank than Sergeant. He had no high connections and no favors to call in. He was one of the average millions just trying to survive. Now survival was not even possible for his grandchildren. He berated himself daily for being such a coward. He simply should have picked up a rifle and started shooting every Communist he saw. But that would only bring more hardship and death to his family.
When the General called him personally and told him to come to his house/headquarters a few hours ago he thought he was done for. He had known for months that the Party had finally concluded that he had lost his faith in Socialism.
The all knowing party somehow knew his thoughts. It started when the political officer assigned to his Company observed his lack of enthusiasm when shouting “Socialism or Death” or the other vapid Party slogans. But more than half the men lacked the requisite fervor. He was no more dissenting than them.
He was still wary after the General told him the plan that would culminate in Alex’s death. Usually a plan whose incentive is your execution is not considered attractive by the average person. But the General knew men. He appealed to Alex’ sense of duty, to his family and to all the Cuban families in the same circumstances as his. In trade for his life the General promised that millions would live. His future grandchildren would grow up healthy and happy.
That cinched the deal for Alex. The mere thought of his grandchildren’s condition motivated him to sacrifice anything for their welfare.
The moment Alex heard the aide coming down the hall urgently calling after Castro he released his grip on the notebook binder and the nylon spike dropped into his hand. It was nine inches long and several times thicker than a ballpoint pen. Indentations formed a solid grip for the fingers. The hilt terminated in the lower palm of the hand giving it tremendous thrusting power as an extension of the forearm.
The point was as sharp as a hypodermic needle. The Teflon no-stick surface on the business end of the spike provided a smooth entry into the body. The General had acquired it and many others like it searching the homes of suspected dissidents. Ingenious concealable knives sent from America.
Alex had just a few minutes of practice with the weapon to become familiar with it. Fortunately he had four years experience in the amateur boxing ring when he was a teenager. The thrust of the dagger to the head of the victim was very much like a right cross. He felt as though he had lost very little in the intervening years, indeed he was much stronger now than he had been at eighteen. Being a sergeant, he was mandated to stay in shape. The power was there, he knew, but he did not have the quickness and accuracy of his younger years. He determined that he would just have to make up for it by not hesitating for a millisecond. In that final moment he vowed that he would have no thought of dying or escape or pleading for his life. He would only think of the strike.
When Alex saw Castro walking toward them he decided to drive the dagger home as el Presidente passed him in the hallway.
Castro and his entourage had stopped in the underground corridor to talk with the General. The two men were no more than centimeters apart in the cramped quarters. Alex was less than a meter away. A bodyguard placed his body between Castro and Alex as the two Cuban leaders came to a halt.
This was certainly not as Alex or even the General had envisioned it. The General was to meet with Castro and bring Alex into the briefing for his special knowledge regarding the subject at hand. Perhaps over a spread out map Alex would sidle up closer to the Comandante. It was certainly not the optimum moment to strike while he was surrounded by bodyguards. On the other hand, all he needed was an unguarded second to succeed where a number of attempts had failed.
When the aide had rushed down the hall calling for the President everyone, except Alex, turned to look at him. When the bodyguard turned he left a gap between himself and the General and a clear shot at Castro. True to his vow Alex launched himself at his target without hesitation simultaneously releasing his briefcase and notebook binder.
His left foot stepped forward propelled by a powerful right leg conditioned by years of thirty kilometer marches in full gear. He wound up his right arm for a straight right cross punch bringing the dagger up, pointing at the target. Then he threw his entire weight and momentum into the strike. Castro’s head did not move at all in the split second it took for Alex to cross the half meter and drive the spike deep into the man’s temple. It was accomplished before Alex’ briefcase hit the ground.
The plan was that Alex would keep hold of the weapon levering it back and forth while the point was buried deep in Castro’s brain to do as much damage as he could until he was killed. But the force of Alex’ blow buried the spike so far into the skull that only a centimeter or two of the handle remained exposed. Alex knew his work was over and Castro would die.
The weapon had a microscopic structure like fish scales. Imbedded under the ridges of these scales was the highly concentrated blood thinner Coumadin. Even if, and especially if the dagger was withdrawn, enough of the drug would remain in the body to ensure that the bleeding would not stop. The spike would now do the work of killing him quickly.
Alex’s momentum carried him forward, bowling over the mortally stricken leader. He put his hands up in the sign of surrender before the bodyguards had drawn their side arms.
The attack had been a blur of violence and no one saw the weapon in use. The bodyguard leaned down to the unconscious Castro. Only then did he see the pool of blood forming under his head. The other guards were puzzled as to why the General’s aide would punch the Commandante. The bodyguard kneeling over the prostrate body yelled, “He stabbed the President!”
Four handguns waved back and forth covering the assassin, the General and his other big burly assistant.
“What are you doing?” barked the General at the Presidential security detail. “Don’t point that gun at me! Arrest this piece of (blank). Do not kill him. We need to question him.”
The General waited with stern furrowed brows and pursed lips for the guards to comply.
“That is an order Sergeant.” The General glowered at the head of the detail.
There was universal confusion on the faces of the bodyguards as they glanced at each other for some kind of resolution as what to do.
The aide that had provided the distraction stood paralyzed with fear, still gripping the white sheet of paper tightly in his hand. He was the only one on the staff who knew that an armored regiment was on its way to the palace under the command of the General now standing before them. Shortly after receiving the communiqué the phone lines went dead. The radios had been hopelessly jammed for the last fifteen minutes by powerful anti-aircraft radar jamming units. The jamming in and of itself was not unusual. Twice in last few days AA guns and missiles lit the night sky over Havana while its powerful radar jamming units had been initiated. That jamming halted all wireless communications. Now the aide could see that the jamming was just another piece of the trap. How much of the army was behind the General? What would they do with the executive personnel once they took over the Palace? They surely could not afford to have witnesses to the coup running around telling the tale. The oldest ruse known to men grasping for power was to falsely accuse and execute those closest to the leader for his death.
The aide could see that the best chance to save his life, at least for another day, would be to side with the General.
With mock indignation he railed at the bodyguards, “General Camejo is now the ranking officer here. You heard him. Lower your weapons and arrest this man.”
The sergeant seemed to come to a similar conclusion. His jaw tightened then he finally said, “Yes, sir.”
The men viciously grabbed the assassin and threw him face first up against the concrete wall.
The world was shocked when the Free Cubans landed unopposed at the decrepit town of Surgidero de Batabanoxcv just forty kilometers from heart of the Communist government. Once again every military organization in the world awaited in fascination to study yet another example of a small force of computer literate soldiers using advanced technology to overwhelm a competent and larger, but technologically backward opponent.
The great final clash that was expected never materialized. Castro had not been seen or heard from in quite a while. The shadowy Communist government wore only the familiar face of General Camejo. A ceasefire was called to discuss a possible compromise. When the opposing troops did meet there were mostly cautious handshakes at first, then as the rum flowed animated greetings, laughter and bear hugs were the norm.
That amiable theme increased as the Free Cubans entered Havana. Only sporadic sniper fire or rouge mortars nipped the heels of the Free Cubans. Those in whose heart festered a murderous hatred decades old could not let their moment pass without trying to kill their lifetime nemesis. The fighting was of short duration however, for the Communist troops still actively patrolling the city would pursue and arrest them for violating the ceasefire. They had no desire to be on the receiving end of another Guantanamo City or Camaguey.
There was no question that the war was nearly in the pocket of the Free Cubans. The Communist forces in the east were either crushed or reeling backwards. The ceasefire was holding in Havana and the west. Negotiations with General Camejo consisted mainly of how best to transition to the Free Cubans.
The final roadblock to complete victory was a man by the name of General Luis Figueroa who had under his control the Central army and elements of the battered and retreating eastern army. The entire Cuban Air Force was now under his control as well. General Camejo convinced him to put a hold on offensive action while the ceasefire negotiations were underway. The Central army commander assumed Camejo had a plan to wipe out the Free Cubans as they landed near Havana or shortly thereafter. When it did not materialize he was enraged at being such a fool as to let the opportunity to hit the transports pass him by. By now he correctly concluded that Camejo had successfully pulled off a coup and was far too friendly with Joshua Marti.
General Figueroa had done a brilliant job of turning Santa Clara into a nearly unassailable stronghold. Anti-aircraft missile batteries numbered in the hundreds. AA guns and shoulder-fired missiles combined numbered more than a thousand. He had husbanded his resources gathering strength as the replacement aircraft flew in from Venezuela. Except for the terrible spanking his forces took in skies above Camaguey he had achieved a standoff. If he had known how low on missiles the Free Cuban fighters had been, he would have bitten the bullet, taken the losses and overwhelmed the two beleaguered F-15’s.
Forty Kilometers off the Southern Cuban Coast
October 8, 2018 “L” Day + 7
“Freedom One, we have a six hostiles forming up at pivot one.” Guantanamo sounded as perfectly clear as a phone call.
“Aw man, I’ve got to hit the head. This is not fair,” Izzy whined. The F-15 was into its second hour of combat air patrol and Izzy’s almost fanatical addiction to coffee was catching up to him. “OK potty pal, time to make a deposit,” he said as he ripped at the Velcro strap holding the urine receptacle.
“Freedom One is on the hose, ten-point-one!” Cuco shouted as he rushed toward the drogue trailed by an accommodating U.S. KC-130 refueling tanker forty kilometers off the southern coast of Granma.
“You got that right Kook; tell ‘em I’m on the hose too. Bet’cha I’ll hit my drogue before you do, you slack jawed glassy-eyed rum pot,” Izzy said in a gravelly low voice imitating a character in an old black and white TV western they had seen months ago. He went on to bawdily expand upon his vulgar analogy.
Cuco was great at everything in a plane except refueling. It was obvious that Gitmo was anxious to put the F-15 between them and the bad guys. Freedom Four was still five minutes from barreling down the runway. That put pressure on him and of course it didn’t help that Izzy found the temptation to antagonize his pilot at times like this just too much fun to resist. The harder Cuco tried to plug the drogue the worse he did. He ranked refueling right up there with carrier landing in the anxiety department. Trying to stick a three-inch nozzle inside tiny four-foot-diameter basket by maneuvering an eighty-thousand pound aircraft around it was difficult under the best of circumstances. Unfortunately the air was pretty rough today. The tanker flew a lazy figure eight pattern to stay on station which made it even harder. Finally the tanker flew straight and level long enough for Kook to plug the drogue. He should have taken only five-thousand-pounds of fuel and cycled off as fast as possible to head off the new threat till Freedom Four could get up to speed but he did not want to face another refueling again in twenty minutes. Fifteen-thousand-pounds of fuel later Cuco cycled off, banked sharply to the vector heading, and pushed the throttles up to full military powerxcvi.
“Freedom One is clear.”
Under the F-15 the stately Sierra Maestra Mountains formed beautiful green ramparts that seemed to stand guard of the very old island. The rounded peak of Pico la Bayamesa loomed seventeen-hundred meters into the sky rising above the low clouds. Freedom One was in full afterburner as it rapidly ate up the distance to the enemy. The AWACS that was providing air coverage was Air Force. Cuco and Izzy were Navy pukes and didn’t care much for the Air Force operators who used unfamiliar terminology and seemed determined to read off every number on their radar screens. Even with the belabored and nearly unintelligible reports it didn’t take long to form a mental picture of the battle space. The Commies were going to throw everything they had into this one. They both had a bad feeling about the upcoming battle. The ground offensive had gone extremely well but the air offensive was on its last legs. Gitmo now knew that the Communists had two fighters for every Free Cuban air-to-air missile in stock. Izzy had the same sick feeling in his stomach he had when he listened to Roman and Pepe fight it out to the last.
The flight of eight MiG fighters split into two formations. One group of four made a B line to the AWACS radar plane directing the air battle. The other flight of four headed for Gitmo. The Americans had been wary since losing their E-8 reconnaissance aircraft and had been flying as far away from the island they could and still provide coverage. The AWACS ran away as fast as it could as its two F-18 escorts turned to face the oncoming enemy fighters. The coverage of Santa Clara had been lost but not before it was evident that a major attack was on the way. The second flight of MiG’s turned from their course and headed for the E-8 that replaced the one the Communist forces had destroyed a few days before.
It took a full five minutes before satellite images slowly reported the whereabouts of the main force of MiGs. It was no mystery where they were headed but Gitmo surmised that the attack would come from the north or northeast. Fourteen MiG-21s along with its Chinese equivalent J-9’s and eight MiG 23’s led the way as cannon fodder to absorb the twelve precious air-to-air missiles hanging from the F-15’s racks. Thirty-four MiG 29’s provided the real steel in this hammer blow. Well trained Chinese pilots drove the majority of the donated Chinese fighters. Six Venezuelan pilots and three lone surviving Cubans made up the balance.
Kook and Izzy overheard the AWACS vectoring its two American F-18’s onto the pursuing MiG 29’s. The Americans had been suspiciously quiet for the last two days after the downing of the very expensive radar reconnaissance plane. Castro wrote off Washington inaction to the fact that no American lives were lost in the engagement. Both sides now aggressively contested the air space that would rid the battle of peering Imperialist eyes. Freedom One was busy managing their own upcoming battle but it was clear that the Communist MiG-29’s put up a heck of a fight, tenaciously going after the American intel planes.
Freedom Four was still nowhere in sight when the older MiG’s were nearly within range just east of Las Tunas 253 kilometers from Guantanamo. Cuco could find no way around them. One thing the older fighter bombers did not lack was speed. Even if he did slide in under them he would be swamped by numbers of sophisticated fighters that even the Eagle could not contend with. Izzy fired two AMRAAM’s with what he assumed would be predictable results, banked one-hundred-eighty-degrees and headed for the skies above Gitmo. Izzy looked over his shoulder as one MiG-21 became a fiery smear across the sky. The other one suffered a tremendous explosion as every bit of its fuel, rocket propellant and explosives detonated in a thunderous head on strike.
“Numerous incoming hostiles. You better circle the wagons, Gitmo,” a not so disguised code phrase for the Gitmo defenses to prepare for action.
“Freedom Four is airborne.”
“Glad you could join the party, Slammer. Take high cap over the base.”
“Roger that Kook.”
“Freedom One to Mensura, I’ve got a bunch of MiG’s on my tail. Get the missile batteries ready and I’ll try to drag ‘em on through, but make sure you check IFF. I’m the first one you will see.” Cuco really did not expect an answer from the forward missile battery but had no doubt the message would get through.
“Gitmo to Freedom One, Mensura copies.”
The mountain Loma de la Mensura stood as a lone sentinel ninety kilometers northwest of Guantanamo. It was the first substantial hill the MiG’s would pass on their way to the Free Cuban base. The little NASAMSxcvii missile trailer sat on the side of the mountain with its box of six missiles pointing to the sky. It looked like someone’s broken down trailer on the side of the mountain. The highly advanced missiles would knock them out of the sky but a single box of six was pathetically inadequate for the task at hand.
Before Izzy could give Mensura the order to radiate the MiG’s broke off the chase and headed north, away from hidden missiles.
“Ahh, they know about our SAM’s (surface to air missiles).” He keyed the mike “Freedom One to Gitmo, looks like they are heading north.”
The AWACS was still battling for its life and was pushed off station. They probably would not have it back (if it ever came back) till the attack was over. The boys of Freedom One sorely missed the eyes in the skies the Americans had provided in the past. They had not always expressed it. In their bravado they would state that their LADAR could give them all the picture they needed. Now they acutely felt the absence of a God’s eye view of the battle space.
The MiG’s flew well north of the coast until they were nearly the same longitudinal coordinates as the Free Cuban base then turned sharply south toward it. They flew over the coastal town of Moa with its tall nickel smelting smoke stacks spewing their foul pollutants that hung over the town like a blanket. Twenty kilometers south of Moa a hidden Free Cuban SAM battery held their fire to let the interceptors through. If they did not carry bombs they were not a severe enough threat to the base. The Communists hugged the mountains starting at Pico el Toldo and followed them south.
When the bomb laden MiG’s appeared following the interceptors a few minutes later the Free Cuban SAM launcher got a perfect score of six kills for six shots. MiG pilots incensed at the ambush gunned the nearby radar vehicle to pieces.
The MiG interceptors cleared the last hills that separated them from the Free Cuban Sector at Guantanamo. It was the first time during the war that Communist aircraft laid eyes on it. They rocketed skyward in pursuit of the two F-15’s patrolling high and to the south of the base.
The moment the twenty interceptors popped over the range of hills forty kilometers north of Gitmo Patriot missile batteries cut loose a flurry of deadly accurate anti-ballistic missiles. The fiery darts seemed to knock them down as fast as they peeked over the terrain that shielded them. Only the computers and radar operators could see the action at this distance. The Patriots were automatically fired and needed no human intervention. What seemed like a profligate waste of weapons was actually carefully orchestrated by a main fire computer assigning to each missile a unique target. The one thing a fighter jockey did not want to come up against was a Patriot missile. It was designed to hit ballistic missiles traveling many times the speed of aircraft. The weapon system proved itself time and again in combat smashing head-on into incoming ballistic warheads in one of the most unbelievable feats of accuracy on the battlefield today. Nine MiG’s went down leaving eleven streaking skyward after the Eagles. Twenty-eight bombers were on their way and only twelve Patriots were left to greet them.
When the heavily laden MiG’s appeared at the very same ingress point they got a similar reception as the interceptors. The newer, more sophisticated MiGs had much more effective jamming capabilities and only eight of them were knocked down by the Patriots. They came in low following the terrain closely. Trails of white hot flares dropped from the planes like brilliant necklaces falling to the tortured earth beneath them. Dozens of Free Cuban shoulder fired heat-seeking missilesxcviii reached up and managed to swat only four from the sky. Their poor performance would be one of the greatest disappointments of the war. Another great disappointment would be the close-in Phalanx gattling gun. The Free Cubans only had one. They had run out of the highly specialized ammunition early in the first day of the war. They had reloaded their own rounds to disastrous effect. The gun inevitably jammed and became useless after a second or two of use.
The THELxcix, short for Tactical High Energy Laser, was the secret weapon that the Free Cubans had purchased with surprising ease. Being defensive in nature it did not carry with it the stigma of offensive capabilities that the liberal U.S. Democrats found so repulsive. To defend oneself against tyranny was barely permissible in their view. To actively fight evil was deemed an egregious moral crime. The laser operator had waited until the MiG’s were within five kilometers then engaged. The wing tanks were the most easily visible target on the fighters but the tough titanium took an entire second to burn through. In four seconds the laser would be under attack. The laser slashed across the plane, and through the clear canopy of the lead aircraft instantly igniting the flight suit and boiling the skin of the pilot beneath it. Fire raged for an instant filling the cockpit with smoke. The blinded pilot instinctively pulled back on the stick climbing away from the blurring ground just fifteen meters below it. A pair of brand new MiG 29’s were hit in similar fashion. The deuterium fluoride chemical laser properly tracked the first of the two aircraft and hit the cockpit with three-tenths of a second burst. It was overkill. The body of the pilot literally exploded popping the canopy off and sending it flipping off into the slipstream. The aircraft nosed into the ground fireballing and skipping like a blazing stone amongst the shanties of Caimanera. His wingman rolled the aircraft away from the ground based laser shielding himself with underside of the aircraft. The laser easily tracked the fighter across the sky. The beam blistered and split the smooth titanium skin of the wing like flaming banana peels. The propellant of one of the heat-seeking missiles exploded nearly instantaneously but it did not bring down the aircraft. In 1.2 seconds the port wing fuel tank was breached and exploded like a bomb. The beautiful aircraft spun as only an explosion could spin it as it too joined its twin in death. Two more aircraft were brought down before the laser was swamped by numbers of aircraft that even it could not overcome. Tracers from a MiG 29’s 30 millimeter gun reached out for the THEL’s mirrored tracker and destroyed it.
With the last of the major defensive systems defeated the MiGs rose into the sky to line up for their bombing runs. Dozens of stinger missiles shot into the sky after the remaining fifteen enemy planes. Bombs fell on the runways and the hardened aircraft shelters destroying them. The flimsy THEL laser trailer complex was completely flattened by a bomb hitting nearby. The HQ was squarely hit killing Joshua Marti and General Ugas, the man responsible for the defense of the Free Cuban base. The Green Pine radar was hit along with the nerve center of flight operations. Nothing but static filled the air from the once highly capable air organization. The fuel stores were burning creating a wall of flame two city blocks wide. The airbase was finished.
Only two of the MiG’s were brought down by the stingers and one trailed smoke as the rest turned skyward to finish off the Eagles above them.
Freedom Four exploded when at last two Archer missiles blew off its tail. The Eagles had expended their missiles and the last order Gitmo had sent to them was to withdraw from the fight on a heading of two-three-seven.
Slammer thought he could take out just one or two more with his guns and had underestimated the sophisticated Archers the Chinese J-7’s carried. Cuco slid the throttle forward into zone five afterburner to bug out and head for Haiti. Izzy countered the radar missiles chasing him and watched Freedom Four tumbling through the sky at the same time. On the LADAR screen he kept an eye on the burning wreckage all the way to the ocean below. No chutes, they were dead.
“They are not giving up, Kook. They’re gonna chase us till they run out of gas. I’m out of decoys.”
The only thing left to do was to drop their external fuel tanks to gain more speed. Dropping them would effectively take the plane out of the war however. With the base destroyed and no hope getting replacement parts, this Eagle would be sitting it out in Haiti. With an exasperated growl Cuco punched off the tanks sending them tumbling end over end toward the sea.
The MiG’s fired missile after missile at the fleeing sole surviving FCAF aircraft which stayed just barely out of the deadly archers envelope. A MiG 29 was actually gaining on the Eagle when the Communist pilot reached up to adjust his small rear view mirror.
The pilot’s hand was cut cleanly from his arm and fell on his lap. In puzzlement the man looked at the smoldering stump at the end of his arm. There was no pain. He noticed the windscreen was marred and a small slash was neatly cut into it. Just as he comprehended its cause the cockpit exploded in a ferocious fire. Three more Communist fighters fell in rapid succession before the rest broke off the chase and turned for home. One by one the relentless unseen opponent destroyed aircraft after aircraft. Each kill was unique in its own terrible way.
The Airborne Laserc was built to knock down ballistic missiles at over two hundred miles. Destroying a soft target like a cockpit was a piece of cake. Boring a hole through a jinking fighter’s tough hide to get to a fuel tank took time but give it about a second and it could be done. The Boeing 747-400F still used the older Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) and could mount a limited number of attacks.
A whole bank of infrared sensors and low powered lasers on the Airborne Laser sized up the targets. On the skin of the aircraft were six infrared sensors. One on the nose, one on the tail and a couple on each side. With these sensors the ABL had tracked the MiG’s for quite some time.
The first of four lasers fired a relatively low powered laser with a wide field of view illuminating the target giving the speed, range and altitude of the enemy aircraft. Next, the second low powered beam identified the exact location on where to focus the energy. Then, to maximize the energy that reaches the target a third beam measured the air turbulence between the ABL and the target using the same optical systems that telescopes use to see further into space. The ABL instantaneously reacted to overcome the atmospheric distortions which allowed the full force of the killer laser to reach the target focusing on its most vulnerable areas, the cockpit, fuel tanks or the volatile missile fuel in the MiG’s own weapons.
When its laser producing chemicals were expended the giant aircraft turned north and home to U.S. soil.
Almost immediately the MiG’s turned again to pursue the F-15 until they were illuminated by an American Aegis Cruiserci. The last heading Gitmo had given to its beleaguered fighters sent them through this gauntlet of American protection. The enemy aircraft had had enough. They had no hope of flying around the deadly envelope of the most formidable air defense system on the planet and catching the last Free Cuban fighter. For the last time they broke off the chase and headed home.
“Freedom One, this is Panhandle.” The AWACS was finally back online. “You will see four fast fliers. They are not hostile, I repeat, they are not hostiles. Southwest thirty-five-thousand.”
“I copy that Panhandle. What just happened?” Cuco saw plainly what had happened on the LADAR display. He felt foolish the moment the question left his lips.
There was silence, then, “That was pretty good shootin’ Freedom One!”
That told Cuco and Izzy everything they needed to know. The use of the laser would remain a secret. In the end they would be credited with fifteen kills in one sortie. Fifteen kills with only six missiles. Yeah, right. People would be scratching their heads for a long time over this one, Izzy thought.
“Freedom One, the four incoming are friendlies. You should read positive IFF. They are FreeCav (FCAF) Tomcatscii.”
Over the intercom Izzy chimed “Brothers to the Rescue. Ha Ha! Back with a vengeance Baby! Look at those beauties,” he said, bringing their image up on his LADAR “Wonder where we got the Tomcats?”
Cuco answered, “Well the navy mothballed all those beautiful monsters. It’s a shame to put them in the bone yard when there’s still lots of fight’n to do.”
They turned for Gitmo and home to a bumpy landing on an alternate runway of undamaged roadway.
The F-14 Tomcats chased after the fleeing MiG’s. Each of the swept wing behemoths carried six long range Phoenix missiles and two AMMRAMS.
Only six MiG’s made it back to Santa Clara where they were promptly carted away to be hidden in the city proper. The surviving pilots, all Chinese, were disbanded and ordered to somehow get to the Chinese embassy in Havana where diplomatic immunity awaited them.
*Central Cuba *
October 9, 2018 “L” Day + 8
With Havana and the west mollified the amphibious Free Cuban Forces turned east toward Santa Clara, the center of the interminably long island.
From the east and from the west newly inducted Free Cuban militia forces drove as fast as their vehicles could carry them into the last remaining communist province. Cubans who stood on the sidelines until the war was nearly won were in a panic to join the resistance before it was too late to share in the vast spoils. The incentives the Free Cubans offered for this final victory were generous to a fault in an attempt to rid the country of the final vestiges of the Communist apparatus. Endless streams of trucks and cars with armed men pushed forward until they hit opposition. Then like a mounting tide Communist resistance was swamped, flanked, surrounded and finally drowned by the relentless push of armed and motivated men. There were a number of drawbacks to this unorganized mob warfare however. When the Free Cuban armored units came near to any fighting the roads were so clogged by friendly militia vehicles that their progress slowed to a crawl. FCAF F-14 Tomcats and the sole surviving Eagle carefully picked away at the AA defenses with newly acquired HARM anti-radiation missiles until resistance finally folded.
General Figueroa’s forces fought with determination and skill in these final few days. His ever shrinking pocket of resistance produced the effect of an ever growing concentration of FCAF firepower down upon them in a non stop crescendo of bullets, bombs, artillery and an endless stream of ferocious, newly inducted Militia pushing ever forward.
Unfortunately the battle for Santa Clara was the only battle to be marred by the ugly aspect of the abuses of war. Some non-regular Free Cuban units proved to be too aggressive in dealing with surrendering prisoners. That news spread quickly among the Communist forces and resistance stiffened. Fighting was prolonged unnecessarily when Communists demanded to surrender only to regular FCAF units. In the months to come sixty-three Free Cuban militia men would stand trial for murder for their part in the Santa Clara abuses.
In the last hour of General Figueroa’s resistance the Free Cubans finally employed the Mother of All Bombs, the MOABciii. Actually, this was an acronym for the Massive Ordinance Airburst Bomb. The mushroom cloud of the twenty-one thousand pound bomb rose ten thousand feet in the air and was visible for over fifty miles. The bomb was dropped on the ever shrinking Communist line of defense. It annihilated a full kilometer of the vaunted Sherry Castle line and opened the highway into Santa Clara. The Free Cuban Militia poured through the line and deep into the enemy rear in a never-ending torrent. They breached the inner defenses before they could be properly manned by its communist defenders. In an ugly melee the Militia raged through the poorly defended roads and byways of the soft enemy center. It was the last straw for the beleaguered Communists. In as much pomp and ceremony as he could muster, On October 16^th ^at 4:34 in the afternoon, General Figueroa assembled one hundred and twenty three of his men, mostly his immediate staff, and to signify his surrender ceremoniously handed over a bayonet to a smiling, disheveled and dirty faced lieutenant of the Free Cuban Militia.
Twelve days from the opening of hostilities, with fighting still raging in Santa Clara, the body of Joshua Marti traveled in state through the streets of Havana to his final resting place. It was the wooded spot in the shadow of the Presidential Palace. His heart however, had been removed to be buried in Arlington, Virginia.
ii Gen. Douglas MacArthur
iii Makarov holster
iv SA-2 SA-3
v multifunction displays in F-15 cockpit
vi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SA-9_Gaskin SA-9 Gaskin
viii F-4 Wild Weasel (Double click on footnote number to return to document)
Aim-7 Sparrow missile (Double click on footnote number to return to document)
x AWACS Radar Plane (Double click on footnote number to return to document)
xi unmanned RQ-4A Global Hawk
xii U-2 spy plane
xiii RC-135 RIVET JOINT electronic reconnaissance plane
xiv E-8 Joint STARS (surveillance and Targeting Radar System) ground-reconnaissance aircraft.
xv MLRS rocket
xvi MLRS rockets TACMS missile
xvii Armando Valladares, Against all Hope pg 225 Encounter Books Publisher
xviii SA-2 Missile
xix Cuban Air Bases
xx From Ann Coulter
xxii Phalanx close-in-weapons system (Double click on footnote number to return to document)
xxiv Littoral Sea Mine
Littoral Sea Mine
xxv FCN Martinez
xxvi OSA Patrol Boat
xxvii STYX SURFACE TO SURFACE ANTI-SHIP MISSILE
xxix Wings of Fire, Dale Brown pg 168
xxx Phantom F-4 firing Sparrow missile
xxxii GBU-38 Satellite guided 500 lb. bomb
xxxiv ZSU-23 “Shilka” four barreled anti-aircaft gun
For video of ZSU-23 Shilka see
xxxv Tom Clancy, Fighter Wing pg 88. Berkley Books NY
xxxvi Ilyushin-76 transport plane
xxxvii For Future combat systems see
xxxix The term “coaxial” is also used by the . In discussions of armored fighting vehicles, it denotes a or similar weapon mounted in a fixed orientation in the , immediately adjacent to and parallel with another weapon, typically the main gun of a , so that the machine gun is aimed by rotating the turret and elevating or depressing the main gun.
xl Dale Brown, Wings of Fire pg. 180 Putnam Publisher
xli Proud Legions, pg 21
xliii (Proud Legions page 46)
xliv Mark 48 Torpedo destroying ship.
xlv Sermons and Sayings of Joshua Marti Book 1 Page 37
xlvi P.J. O’Rourke- Eat the Rich
xlvii [*Future Force Warrior see video at *]
US Army Future Combat Systems (FCS) ‘Vanguard’
US Army Future Combat Systems (FCS) ‘Ready To Go ‘
US Army Future Combat Systems (FCS) ‘Safehouse'-
xlviii Javelin anti-armor missile
[*Definition: *](DOD) 1. The first point at which a moving target is located on a plotting board. 2. A well-defined point, easily distinguishable visually and/or electronically, used as a starting point for the bomb run to the target. 3. airborne—A point close to the landing area where serials (troop carrier air formations) make final alterations in course to pass over individual drop or landing zones. 4. helicopter—An air control point in the vicinity of the landing zone from which individual flights of helicopters are directed to their prescribed landing sites. 5. Any designated place at which a column or element thereof is formed by the successive arrival of its various subdivisions, and comes under the control of the commander ordering the move.
See also target approach point.
liii The ability of an RWR to accurately locate a modern SAM system is critical to the survival of the aircraft. A pulse-Doppler (PD) radar operator detects an aircraft by noting a difference in the frequency of the transmitted and reflected energy. That frequency (Doppler) shift is caused by the component of the aircraft’s velocity that is directed toward or away from the radar. Pilots in a detected aircraft may try to break the enemy radar’s tracking by turning and placing the radar at 90 degrees to their own vector. That change in direction reduces the velocity component toward or away from the radar site to near zero which results in a near-zero-Doppler shift. A reduced Doppler shift also enhances the effectiveness of chaff and decoys, which should allow the aircraft to break lock and hide in ground clutter. Most Doppler radar systems use a filter to reduce clutter by eliminating all returns below a certain velocity. To make the aircraft appear to have a velocity less than the filter velocity, or stay “in the notch,” the pilot of a strike aircraft flying at 540 knots must hold a heading (plus or minus three degrees) that is perpendicular to the direction from the aircraft to the radar (fig. 3).8 To do that, pilots must know the location of the threat radar precisely if they are to survive and attack the target.
Figure 3. Doppler-Notch Diagram. The target aircraft must fly a curved line to maintain a constant distance from the radar and remain in the zero-Doppler region.
liv SA-6 Gainful
lv ZSU-23 “Shilka” four barreled anti-aircraft gun
lvi Shoulder fired SA-18 missile
lvii Dale Brown, Plan of Attack pg. 152
lviii MiG-21 Fishbed
lix RC-135 RIVET JOINT electronic reconnaissance plane
lx E-8 Joint STARS (surveillance and Targeting Radar System) ground-reconnaissance aircraft.
Various TRAP models: A modular, remotely operated weapons system for dismounted or LAV operations (photo from ).
lxii IMS- Intelligent Munitions System For further information on IMS see
lxiii Javelin anti-tank missile
lxiv Tank Turret
lxv October 2000 version of the Hopper. This DARPA project went dark shortly thereafter and no pictures are currently available. See press release dated October 2000 at:
Another article dated 2001:
Article dated 2000:
Interceptor Body Armor
lxvii Defilade- protection or fortifications against enemy gunfire.
lxviii T62 drivers hatch
lxix Night vision Monocular
lxxi (Double click on footnote number to return to document)
lxxiii Rocket Propelled Grenade- RPG
lxxiv Notice Open Hatch
lxxv SWORDS ROBOT
lxxvi Future weapons Episode: Smart Weapons Producer/Director David Starkey and Jon Barrie Waddell. Produced by Waddell Media Limited for Discovery channel. For video:
lxxvii TACM missile
lxxviii Lockheed Martin C-5B galaxy Strategic Transport
lxxix Dale Brown Sky masters page 285
AIM-54 Phoenix missile
lxxxi Dale Brown Warrior Class pg. 143
lxxxiii E-8 Joint STARS (surveillance and Targeting Radar System) ground-reconnaissance aircraft.
lxxxiv The MON-50 antipersonnel mine is a Soviet version of the American M-18 Claymore, a directional fragmentation mine. The curved plate is filled with pellets or projectiles in front of the explosive charge. It can be mounted against a round surface such as a tree or can be placed on a small stand-alone stake. Preformed metal fragments of selected shapes and sizes are shot out by the blast at a high velocity over a predetermined arc. Sometimes described as the military equivalent of the sawn-off shotgun, the widely copied American M-18 Claymore mine contains 700 steel balls and can kill targets up to 50 metres away. Other types can kill people as far away as 200 metres. Directional fragmentation mines are often planted around foxholes or used against convoys, and can sometimes be activated by a simple remote-control switch.
Similar U.S. Claymore mine
lxxxv Taken from the story of a Confederate boy-soldier in American Civil War. During the last few days of the Civil war the Rebels were reduced to forming a series of picket lines that were quickly over run by Union soldiers with their vastly superior numbers and repeating rifles. The boy, in retreat, ran past the Rebels forming the next defensive line and kept running. When asked why he was still running he responded “because I can’t fly!”
lxxxvi Chinese Midas refueling tanker
lxxxvii Cuban aircraft markings
The Cuban prison system
lxxxix Trevor Armbrister, “Fawning over Fidel,” Reader’s Digest, May 1996
xci Infrared decoy flares
xcii Plastic Heavy duty cable ties
xciv Page 82
xcv Batabano, Cuba
xcvi Shadows of Steel Dale Brown G.P. Putnam’s and Sons Publishers
xcvii NASAMS Surface to Air Missiles
xcix THEL anti-missile/aircraft system
THEL anti-missile/aircraft system For Video see
c Airborne Laser
See video at
ci AEGIS Cruiser
cii F-14 Tomcat
ciii For video of M.O.A.B. test see
For MOAB info see
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